Saturday, April 30, 2011

A-List -- Z to A Blogging Challenge

At the beginning of this month, I said I was nuts for doing the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Maybe so. But along the way, I found a load of nutcases to share my loony bin. I returned to these blogs nearly every day for information, inspiration, awesome photos, and laughs.

To these wondrous bloggers, I award Blog on Fire.

Alex Cavanaugh
Tara Tyler
Emerald City
Ellie Garratt
Seton Hill Writers
Ready. Write. Go.
Creepy Query Girl

This writing community has an amazing talent, the desire to Pay It Forward. Truly, it is humbling to see other writers, published and unpublished, agents and editors, stretch out their hand to help others who are just discovering the craft.

Let us go onward. And never stop learning.
Now excuse me while I take a nap.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Becoming Lady Gaga – Z to A Blog Challenge

Where Creativity lurks, Ego may surface. Sometimes in odd fashion.

We want appreciation for our work, if not thundering applause then at least recognition. IMHO, there are similarities between the very popular Lady Gaga and us writers.

The singer puts her soul on display and smiles with the accolades. But the meat dress appears when she hears negativity.

Refining our craft is the key to success as well as persistence. Along the way, rejections are a large massive huge part of the writer’s life and a tough skin is a prerequisite.

And if that doesn’t work, I’ve got a freezer-full of beef.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Corrections Officer aka Prison Guard –Z to A Blog Challenge

In another life, I was a prison guard at a minimum-security prison where scary times are interspersed with mind-numbing inaction. It was a great place to witness human nature.

And I have never laughed so hard before or since that time.
For instance:

An inmate came down the stairway, one hand holding his, um, crotch area. A noise accompanied every step. It…rustled.

He stopped and we stared at each other. In the silence, when his pants crackled again, I knew this was going to be hard, I mean difficult.

“What cha got in your pants?” I said, trying to remain professional.

The inmate grimaced and then pulled a cellophane bag of candy out of his britches. It is a rule in prison that an inmate cannot share their canteen purchases with other inmates. It encourages debt and debtors. By hiding them in his pants, he thought he could get around this rule.

He rolled his eyes and half-smiled.

I gave him the stink eye. “You need to take it back to your locker and find a better hiding place next time.”

Now I had a dilemma. Should I write the inmate a violation?

“…I observed Inmate Smith with something in his pants…”

“…Inmate Smith had candy in his pants…”

“…Inmate Smith’s crotch made an unusual noise…”

In the end, I didn’t write the guy a violation. My fellow officers would have laughed for days if I had.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Detailed Descriptions -- Z to A Blog Challenge

Avoid nitpicky, descriptions that throw every bit of eye-trash at the reader. It muddles the brain and slows the current.

Example: The petals blushed in a rosy hue, redolent of a fiery sunset after an earth-crashing storm.

Translation: Roses are red.

First Page Advice: Kill every adverb/adjective on that first page. Add no more than 3 back. See how it reads now.

Give me strong verbs, simple nouns, hold the adjectives please.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Eroticism. A very subjective definition – Z to A Blog Challenge

*must tiptoe with care*

The subject spikes interest, makes the ears perk up. (hush)

But not every reader is similarly affected.

I like Richelle Mead’s Succubus series and Dark Swan. Love the story line, mystery, conflict, and especially her writing style. But, um, well she can get quite descriptive on occasion.

That’s okay. I am not a prude or in anyway offended. But after reading one *insert tab A into slot B* scene, I skip those bits and pieces and move onto the story. In other words, it does nothing for me.

But this passage from Jack London’s Burning Daylight is something else again. The couple has just married and arrived at Daylight’s ranch house.

“She heard the footsteps of Daylight returning, and caught her breath with a quick intake. He took her hand in his, and, as he turned the doorknob, felt her hesitate. Then he put his arm around her and together they passed in.”
To me it speaks volumes, beautiful, subtle, and oh-my-goodness romantic.
Wicked Game by Chris Isaak is, IMHO, one of the most erotic songs ever.

‘What a wicked game to play, to make me feel this way,

What wicked thing to do, to let me dream of you.

What a wicked thing to say, you never felt this way,

What a wicked thing to do, to make me dream of you and

I don’t want to fall in love.

‘The world was on fire and no one could save me but you.

It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do.

I never dreamed that I’d meet somebody like you.

And I never dreamed that I’d lose somebody like you.’

Are there books or songs that affect you? Passage not generally viewed as erotic.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Format. From MS Word to Kindle – Z to A Blog Challenge

At this stage in our writing career, we know that most agents want Times New Roman 12 pt font, one-inch margins all around, indented paragraphs, and double-spaced manuscripts.

But some agents prefer to read submissions on an E-reader like Kindle.

So, how to format for a Kindle?

Vickie Motter, an agent at Andrea Hurst Literary Management, suggests the following.

(Note: Copy your manuscript before giving this a whirl. Just in case.)

- Press Select+A on your keyboard (Or go up to the Edit drop down menu and choose Select All). This should highlight your entire document. Right click somewhere and go to Paragraph. Under the Indents and Spacing Tab, go to Indentation. Set Left and Right at 0”. Set Special for First Line (this will make your paragraphs automatically indent), by .5”. Don’t ever use the TAB key; this will not show up on an e-reader.

Now go to the next section, still fixing Paragraph, labeled Spacing. Before and After should be opt, and Line Spacing should be Double. This will make your paragraphs evenly spaced. Don’t take for granted that your entire MS is properly spaced already, there are always mistakes.

For new chapters, you can press Enter a few times or, to get the new chapter on a new page, press Shift+Enter. This will put your chapter on a new page and show up nicely on an e-reader (if you press Enter too many times then it might show up on the e-reader as a blank page before we get to the new chapter) Also don’t put your chapter titles in fancy fonts. It doesn’t even need to be in a bigger font.

Using Find and Replace (Ctrl+f) to delete all your tabs by using ^t in MS Word.-

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gas. What is the price of fuel around the world? – Z to A Blogging Challenge

Short and Sweet today.

In northwest Missouri, the price at the pump on Wednesday was 3.58 USD.

What is the price of fuel where you live?

Conversions (I probably shouldn't add this but here it is)

1 US gallon  =  3.785 Litre

3.58 USD  =  2.46 EUR
                 =  3.33 AUD
                 =  2.17 GBP

Friday, April 22, 2011

Heavy Metal and Inspiration -- Z to A Blog Challenge

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. The greatest rock song of all time. I requested a wedding band play it during a couple’s dance. They declined for some reason.

Music plays a part in my chosen craft. Sometimes it is Mozart. Other times soundtracks from movies like Star Trek (2009) or Pride and Prejudice (2005) that inspire me. E. S. Posthumus has a place in my heart also.

But, Ho Boy, it is rock with its jarring rhythms that heighten tension, are in the background of the fights scenes, and the revelations that are the turning points in my novels.

I’ve gotta have Nickelback, Hinder, Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, My Darkest Days, Matchbook Romance (love Monsters), and Three Days Grace pounding in the background when I write.

And then there is Iron Butterfly.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Internal Cussing – Z to A Blog Challenge

I didn’t cuss until I was in my thirties. Then, after several hours of tax figuring, I ‘saved’ my column of numbers on the computer and exited. The computer burped and thanked me for the meal. I yelled my first F-Bomb at it. The speakers snickered back.

Later, as a Corrections Officer I learned all kinds of new words.

But a mouse (a rodent, not a computer device) is what caught the Avon lady’s attention. The varmint (mouse not the lady) had the run of the house. None of my ancient traps worked so I set a shiny new black trap and waited.

That fateful day, the Avon lady rang my doorbell. Since I did not know her well, we traded comments about the weather and sat erectly on the sofa. Think gloves and china teacups, okay?

From the kitchen, I heard a SNAP!

I jumped to my feet and yelled, “Hot Damn. Nailed the little bastard.”

Her expression holds a permanent place in my memory. She left and avoided my house thereafter.

In fact, the neighbors avoided me for months. You know how those Avon ladies get around.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jokes Only Writers Can Appreciate – Z to A Blog Challenge

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

Q. How many science fiction writers does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Two, but it's actually the same person doing it. He went back in time and met himself in the doorway and then the first one sat on the other one's shoulder so that they were able to reach it. Then a major time paradox occurred and the entire room, light bulb, changer and all was blown out of existence. They co-existed in a parallel universe, though.

Rules to Write By:

Avoid alliteration. Always.

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

Be more or less specific.

Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoid

by rereading and editing.

A writer must not shift your point of view.

Don't overuse exclamation marks!!

Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.

Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; They're old hat; seek viable alternatives

An unpublished writer comes home to a burned down house. His sobbing wife is standing outside. “What happened, honey?” the man asks.

“Oh, John, it was terrible,” she said. “I was cooking, the phone rang. It was an agent wanting to speak to you. Because I was on the phone, I didn’t notice the stove was on fire. It went up in second. Everything is gone. I nearly didn’t make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is--”

“Wait, wait. Back up a minute,” the man says. “An agent called?”

Q. What's the difference between publishers and terrorists?
A. You can negotiate with terrorists.

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” Brenda Ueland.

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” Robert A. Heinlein.

“A person who publishes a book appears willfully in the public eye with his pants down.” Edna St. Vincent Millay

“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” Oscar Wilde.

“If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” William Zinsser.

“Easy reading is damned hard writing.” Anonymous

“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.” Stephen King.

“I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.” P.G. Wodehouse, after being asked about his writing technique.

Most important:

“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.” Anonymous.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kryptonite Factor – Z to A Blog Challenge

We want heroes to kick butt, win the dustups with their villains.

Picture Captain Jack Sparrow on the deck of the Black Pearl. The Kraken is moments away from tearing his beloved ship apart.

It is a grand sight; his chin lifted his back straight, gazing into death. But would it affect us if he hadn’t fought his self-centered ego along the way?

Conflict – our protags must have faults. They must have kryptonite to overcome. It can be physical bumps in the road like a battle that leaves them bloody and crawling away to recover. Or it can be mental.

Jack had his Pearl then lost it. Several times. He found a treasure-filled cave but a storm erased it. He left his crew to face the Kraken without him. But he conquered his fear and returned to fight.

All superheroes must have imperfections, just like us. Without faults, there are no markers to judge them by and no connection.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Listen! Your Protag Is Talking – Z to A Blog Challenge

Can’t you hear them, the voices? The protag pulling your shirttail, yelling in your ear. She is trying to tell you something.

Psychotic much?

Naaah. We are all writers here; we know about the voices and accept them as part of our passion to compose. But are you listening to them?

Ask your characters what they are experiencing at the beginning of a scene. Are they anxious? Impatient? Spoiling for a fight? Angry, suspicious, terrified beyond all capacity to reason?

Put yourself in their shoes.

Okay, maybe that is just this side of nuts but you know what I mean. Ask them what they feel at that particular moment in the story, tap into those voices, and show this in your writing. It gives your MS the reality it requires.

Yeah, I know medication is available for the voices but this is way more fun.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

*time out from Z to A Blogging Challenge*

Versatile Blogger Award

Tara Tyler honored me with the Versatile Blogger Award this week. Her blog is a fantastic mixture of writing tips and advice on life. Truly, a spot have a cuppa and put your feet up.

My penance is to reveal seven things about myself. Well, now, how easy is that? 
  • I admire babies from afar but snuggle with strange puppies and kittens.
  • Old barns, windmills, and farmsteads fascinate me. I wonder what their history is and if the swing in the front yard of the crumbling house misses the children that once played around it. 
  • Oak. I love oak. Trees, floors, desks, tables. Love it.
  • Since 1980, we’ve used a wood stove to heat our house. It’s kind of messy, ashes and wood chips to clean out, but at 400 bucks a month savings on heating, it’s been worth it. 
  • Hate spiders (who doesn’t?) but love praying mantis. 
  • Once upon a time, in my Laura Ingalls Wilder past, I made butter, cheese, milked a cow, had chickens. 
  • In my younger days, I broke horses.
Passing on this award is the hard part since how do I choose between all my lovely bloggers. But here goes:

Cre8tiv Glory

Visit these sites for writing tips, a cuppa, or just for a smile. All are well-worth your time.

This writing community of ours is massive and our fellowship an amazing treasure.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Missouri and Mushrooms – Z to A Blogging Challenge

Or, how country folk go crazy in the spring

When the weather turns mild, the trees feather out their leaves, and a warm rain falls, people will brave ticks and charge through Keep Out signs to look for mushrooms, or specifically, morels.

Okay. I am not one of them.

Yes, they are tasty dumped in an egg and cracker batter and fried in butter.And there is a certain thrill in the discovery of a large patch. Then bragging rights can ensue.

But, you people are nuts. First off, there are ticks. TICKS *shiver*. Some are big enough to pick off but others are what we call ‘seed’ ticks, about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Get a couple hundred of those on you and I guarantee, the dance you do will not require music.

Then if you do find morels and avoid the ticks, you must soak the mushrooms in salt water to get rid of the little mite-thingies.

No thanks. I’ll stick with regular old white cap or Portobello that I can hunt in relative safety at the local grocery store.

But, if you’ve got extra morels lying around, you will let me know, right?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Novels of Consequence – Z to A Blog Challenge

Or books that make the cut.

Books inhabit every cranny of my two-story house. In closets, under beds, boxes in corners. OCD much?

I display the best ones, the books of substance, on my antique oak bookshelf. They range from collectible tomes of Japanese poetry to recent acquisitions of fantasy.

Some authors occupy entire sections.

Jim Butcher            Patricia Briggs
JK Rowlings           JRR Tolkein
Richelle Mead        Mary Stewart
Stephenie Meyer    Patrick Rothfuss
Robert Jordan

Other novels are single representations.

The Hunger Games series     Shepherd of the Hills
        Buff, a Collie                     Seabiscuit       
The Robe                              Dune
Stranger in a Strange Land    Green Grass of Wyoming

One author stands out, Mary Stewart. Her novels include Touch Not the Cat, the Merlin novels, The Ivy Tree, and Madam, Will You Talk.

Another shelf holds my collection of ancient and fragile Fairy Tales, the old kind before PC advocates took over.

Do you have books that hold a place not only on a bookshelf but also in your heart?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Of Lilacs, Honey, and Sun – Z to A Blog Challenge

In Missouri, this is the time of lilacs, sun-dried clothes, and honey. On our farm, this is the only season the three scents combine and breathe with the wind.

Odors spark the synapses in my brain and always pull me into a memory. Forty years ago, my sister made butter and now the smell takes me back to her. If I catch a whiff of mothballs and Channel No5, I think of my deceased mom.

In your manuscript, use aromas to focus the reader, to give a point of reference. After I read the words in one of my favorite novels, the scent of lilacs, honey, and sun does it for me, tugs my thoughts back to the book.

What books have opened your sense of smell just by reading the words?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pay Attention – Z to A Blog Challenge

Be a lurker, a stalker and watch the gestures, the movements of people around you.

Note what makes them stand out. Unusual traits or interesting habits, that is.

Use these gestures in you manuscript to define your characters and bring them to life. Everyone has their quirks. Harvest from people around you to make the storyline bloom.

Family and friends roll their eyes when they see me taking notes, but use care not to spook total strangers. It makes them nervous.

And that restraining order really sucks too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Quothe – Z to A Challenge

“My name is Kvothe pronounced nearly the same as Quothe. You may have heard of me.”

So begins The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, my newest hero.

When too many words tangle a novel’s storyline into knots, I begin skipping paragraphs. Then if things don’t sort themselves out, I pass over whole pages.

Two book series break my habit. I consume every word then go back, and read again.

One is of those books is Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

The others are The Name of the Wind, a debut novel by the Mr. Rothfuss and Wise Man’s Fear, the second in the series.

His writing challenges me to better my craft.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reality – Z to A

Convince the reader that your world is not only possible but also probable.

My genre, my drug of choice, is urban fantasy or contemporary fantasy. Now, I’d love it if dragons, snarky rapiers, and wizards existed in our world especially if I could meet one. But as much as I hate to admit it, they don’t. *sigh*

My job as a writer is to break the reader’s resistance and show them a woman can control animals (and people) just by wishing it so. I want them to believe that wizards pull magic from the earth and conspiracies abound in our world. Did you know a fresh-made wizard caused an earthquake in Iowa? *G*

To do this the writer must first make the characters believable. Second, the villains must have human traits that give the reader a point of reference. And third, create layers of facts, arguments that give your little voices life.

Reality is only a perception. Give the reader a peek into your world and open another door into their imagination.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Secret of Staying Young - Z to A

The Secret
of staying young
is to find an age
you really like

and stick with it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

True Love – Z to A

*warning. Mushy stuff lies ahead*

Here is my timeline:

I met him on a Monday, a blind date.
Decided to marry on Friday of the same week
Married five months later (no, we didn’t ‘have to’)

Another blogger posted a question for her followers: “Did you marry your Edward?”

If the question means, does my breath still catch when he smiles at me from across the room, then I would say the answer is Yes.

We were both 19.
We celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary this year.

Btw, since we are both strong-willed people, the occasional Billy Martin episodes do happen, i.e. standing toe-to-toe kicking dirt on the others shoes. *G*

Did you marry your soul mate?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Use Examples of Other Writers – Z to A

No, no. Do not plagiarize but research their technique, how they use and manipulate words. Each of these books has dramatic passages that moved me.

Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

A Painted House by John Grisham

Star of the Guardians by Margaret Weis

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I dissected the scenes by noting sentence structure, (very important) how they achieved that mood in me, created scenes, used descriptions, and braided words into their tales.

Specifically, I note my reactions and pinpoint when the author hit me. It enlightens and fine-tunes my writing craft.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Villains – Z to A Challenge

*cue sinister music*

Writing Tip For Fellow Challenged, er Challengers.

The villain is evil, scary. Or maybe gets in the way of the protag.

OUT OF MY WAY, she says.

The reader wants to know why.

For truly sinister attributes, build your antagonist through the eyes of your protag. Don’t tell the reader what a badass the antag is. Prove it. Give the protag’s perception. Use her fear and anxiety to show the reader.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Writing Notes – Z to A

My characters come to life at my treadmill. With music blaring (Lady Gaga usually, heaven help me), I work out at four mph. My spiral notebook rests on the pedestal covering my digital screen.

Beats me why this works. Maybe my mind clears, I don’t know. I write scenes, plot an outline, what is going through my protag’s head, and major shifts in storyline direction. The spiral notebook follows me from treadmill to computer where I slap meat on the bones of the story.

Bing, bam, boom.

Sausage; sometimes ya don’t wanna know how it’s made. But with a family like mine, material presents itself. Hence the photo.

Btw, it’s kind of scary writing a love scene with Bad Romance rocking in the background.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Xenolith – A Rock Hound’s Journey – Z to A Blogging Challenge

A fragment of rock imbedded in another rock.

Geology is one of my first loves. I am a rock hound. In northwest Missouri, an amateur can find such fossils as clams, crinoids (sea lilies), petrified wood, and shark teeth.
 I call this my dinosaur egg. More likely, it is a Native American artifact.

My example of petrified poop isn't as photogenic as the 'egg'. But that is another story.

Any fellow Rock Hounds or budding Indiana Jones out there?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Youth - What Are They Reading

Adults fell on E-readers like people diving on the last cake at a bake sale. And teens are following the trend.

Who would have imagined it, kids with their feet up, Kindle in hand?

I wanted to read so bad that as a 5 year old, I looked at the illustrated version of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and made up my own story. In first grade, (no kindergarten where I lived) when the strange shapes on the pages began to make sense, reading became my world.

Robert Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel enticed me to enter the realm of Sci-fi. After reading The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key, there was no turning back.

Friday, April 1, 2011


A direction or segment of a course running opposite to a zig

Or A to Z Blogging Challenge. My way.

“I couldn’t resist, mate.” – Captain Jack Sparrow

Consider this a zag without the zig, a mild form of rebellion that my first grade teacher characterized as, um, stubborn.

I never liked coloring within the lines, following the guidelines. In this business, straying from the thundering herd might brand the writer as unique.

Or pulled down and eaten by a lion. Gulp.

But I digress because I do have an ulterior motive other than exercising my perverse nature.

At the end of April, my daily blogs will line up in alphabetical order.

See? My motives are totally aesthetic.

*tap dancing furiously*
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