Apr 30, 2012

Z is for: Zoo

If I was an animal, this is how I'd look today, after 26 days of A-to-Z:

There's a reason they call it a 'challenge', right? Hope you had as much fun as I did...and now, back to regular programming.

Apr 27, 2012

Y is for: Yesterday

I'm not a big Beatles fan. As a Gen Xer, I've spent my entire life waiting for them to go away. And it's finally dawning on me that it's just not going to happen. For my kids and grandkids, maybe....but not for me.

Now before you get all indignant on me, there are a few songs that I like  - Twist and Shout, Imagine, Yesterday.

So here's a 1965 Paul McCartney singing Yesterday. Sweat is literally pouring off of him, he rushes the lyrics, he's got zero stage presence. He's so raw, so honest and unpolished that if he gave this performance in 2012's American Idol, I doubt he'd get picked to go to Hollywood.

Now, here's Toni Braxton's version of Yesterday. It's mixed to perfection; she's airbrushed, wears about 10,000 Victoria's Secret outfits and sits at a piano supposedly playing in a song that has zero piano melodies. No sweat, no camera shot longer than five seconds, lots of lip syncing and fake foreplay. Nothing in this video is real.

How far we've come, no?
Remember what I said about my kids and grandkids not knowing who the Beatles were?
That's too bad.
I'd take Paul's yesterday over Toni's any day.

Apr 26, 2012

X is for: Xerxes

I get a kick out of Edward Gorey's work...mostly because he did a lot with cats.

 He also did a series of artwork depicting each letter of the alphabet, proving he was the very first A-to-Zer, only with pen-and-ink instead of a blog.

He published these macabre little sketches in a book called The Gashlycrumb Tinies, the antithesis of a typical children's ABC book  because each page pictured a different way for ...well, go here to read the whole creepy thing.

But take a look at poor Xerxes before you do.

What is his unhappy fate? Guess in the comments before you hop away to see if you're right.

Apr 25, 2012

W is for: White Noise... or what you listen to while you write

Sarah Pearson over at Empty White Pages used to run a feature on her blog called Musical Impressions. She'd share a short story or writing sample from a friend and then match the music to the story.

Have you ever experienced the reverse - been inspired by a song to write a scene? This has only happened to me once with a lovely little instrumental by a Washington-based family ensemble called Magical Strings. It's called The Summer River and it's a lament. (I'd share the whole thing but I can't get Blogger to copy my music file off my player. *grrrr*It's too bad because the piece's harmonies really take off in the second stanza.)

Here's the clip: http://www.magicalstrings.com/samples/The%20Summer%20River.mp3

So...what did this bring to mind? Images, scenes, emotions?

What songs inspire you while you write? Does anything inspire you to write?

Share them in the comments, including links if you can!

Apr 24, 2012

V is for: Vicious

I queried a novel a year ago that was a huge FAIL. There were a number of reasons for this - a bad query letter, an over-used concept, first pages that never got critiqued like they should have. (I even hired a professional editor and paid an embarrassing amount of money to get my query package critiqued. Total noob mistake.)

I recently re-read this MS to discover the biggest reason of all for the fail: my MC's Mean Girl potential. In this scene, she's able to manipulate everyone around her to do something pretty vicious. (Just to set the scene, Brecken has just had a fight with Tina, her best friend, about Tina's boyfriend Peter.) 

Brecken pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She looked more sad than mad. I frowned.
“I have a feeling,” I said carefully, “that Tina is wrong about Peter.”
“How?” my friends asked. Brecken just looked at me. Her thoughts, usually bright purple, were dimmed tonight.
“Tina thinks he loves her for who she is, right? Well, what if her look changed?”
“How?” Kaylee asked again but Chrystal narrowed her eyes. I thought of eyelashes, Tina’s long, curling lashes. An identical evil smile curled their lips.
“Not permanently, of course,” I continued, moving my gaze to Brecken’s. 
“Something small but huge,” Chrystal murmured. She leaned over to whisper in Brecken’s ear.
“Just a little trim,” I heard Chrystal say right before the screaming started again. Teens were getting slaughtered left and right on TV.
 Brecken went still and the color in her mind was exactly half grey, half purple. She needed a little push so I leaned forward.
            “It’ll be for her good,” I pointed out. “Both her and Peter. It’ll solidify their love…or not. Isn’t it better for her to find out now that he's shallow? If he fails this test and dumps her, you’ll stand by her. You’ll be such a good friend that she won’t ever drop you for a guy. Not after this. Not ever again.”
“You’ll actually be helping her,” Chrystal said.
Kaylee fumbled in her overnight bag and came up with a tiny pair of scissors. She held them in one palm so Brecken could see.
“Wait until everyone is asleep,” Kaylee said. “We’ll help you.”
“We promise,” I said.
“Snip, snip,” said Chrystal.

So...vicious. It drives the tension, makes us wince or gasp, throws our allegiances one way or another. But it's generally a behavior reserved for the baddies. Are there any stories out there where an MC can be vicious without losing your sympathy?

Apr 23, 2012

U is for: Utopia

Utopia: the perfect civilization, governed by humane and compassionate rulers whose aim is to nurture and perfect its citizens. (Term dates from the 16th century, when Sir Thomas More created an island by that name and then titled his book after it.)

If I could create a utopia, it'd look a lot like heaven because I'm kind of a Jesus freak; plus, we'd all have our own self-sufficient islands with jet skis to go visit each other. Lots of beaches. There would be an eternity to read, as well as teleport to various parts of the universe. And we'd eat brownies without gaining weight...even the kind with frosting and chocolate chips...

If you were going to create a utopia, what would it look like?

Apr 22, 2012

T is for: Time Management

My weekdays are pretty structured - in fact, if I posted a schedule, it would look like one on this clock with every minute accounted for. I have certain days I clean and do laundry, certain days I grocery shop, and keep a calendar for afternoon/evening kid activities so I'm not a slacker mom.
This spills over into my job as a teacher.  Since I teach PE for grades K-8, my weekly lesson plan looks like a spread sheet, with equipment and activities carefully planned so I have time to transition between say, an eighth grade class and kindergarten.
So I've always been okay at time management. Once I decided to start seriously writing again last summer, it wasn't a huge deal for me to set aside a few hours each day and stick to them. I knew that if I didn't, I'd never reach my goal. I don't have a word count goal per say - although I do have an average- but if I don't reach that average, it's not cause for disappointment. Any words are better than none.

I've also found that my enthusiasm for writing is in proportion to how much time I read for fun. Giving myself the reward of curling up with a great book (instead of doing something productive, like organizing the closet) keeps me motivated.

So how do you manage your time?   If you struggle with finding time, why?
How do you stay motivated to accomplish whatever goal you've set?

Apr 20, 2012

S is for: Summer

Hiking to Lost Lake in Hatcher Pass
It is just past break-up here in Alaska, which means the snow has gone from my yard, if not the mountains, leaving a brown raft of grass skeletons and a rime of glacier dust behind. The most intrepid trees are just starting to bud, prompting everyone to frown at all the shreds of plastic and trash and dog poop that had been covered up by our five feet of snow. Overhead, millions of snow geese and sandhill cranes and Canadian geese and ducks are returning.  Soon the sparrows will come swooping and hunting like they do each May, bundling their nests in the crease of our roof.

Spring is here. And so is the sun. It rises about six a.m. now, and sets long past 10 p.m. By this time next month, it'll go down along the horizon between two and four a.m. We Alaskans tend to sleep a lot less in the summer, partly because there are much better things to do, and partly because we're like solar panels, absorbing all this energy. Last summer, I averaged around five hours a night.

 I'm a teacher, so summer to me means a mental freedom I don't have the rest of the year. For three months, I can wander through the rooms of my brain without bumping into lesson plans or schedules. And, like the trees and the birds and the salmon and the bears, my imagination goes crazy.

Last summer, I fell into this rabbit hole of story, typing so fast I'd blink and realize hours had passed. Throughout the day, I'd drift back to my laptop like it was a bag of chocolate, stealing moments to write like a guilty binge eater. Even while dipnetting with my son, or hiking Hatcher Pass or picking berries or coaching soccer or watching a baseball game, I had to stop myself from zoning out, from turning inward to plot, rearrange, compose.

Summer: the best time to be an Alaskan. For me, the best time to be a writer.
Mt. McKinley

Apr 19, 2012

R is for: recipe

(Hey all - my agent-sibling, Daisy Carter, is hosting an interview with our agent, Tricia Lawrence next week. Go here to submit a question and get in the drawing for a free book!)

This cake is one of my favorite to make. It's quick, uses cheap ingredients and is relatively low fat since it requires cocoa and not baking chocolate.

My only issue with it is it doesn't last long. :) Because the frosting is supposed to be poured over the cake before it cools, the cake can get a kind of bread pudding consistency when it's a few days old. To avoid that, just let it cool a little longer.

Texas Chocolate Cinnamon Cake

1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup baking cocoa
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
4 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Spring a 9 X 13-inch pan.
In small saucepan, combine 1 cup butter with 1/4 cup cocoa. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
In mixing bowl, cimbine flour, sugar, soda and cinnamon. Add chocolate mixture. Beat on low speed for one minute, then add eggs, 1/2 cup milk and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat until combined. Spread in prepared pan and bake about 25 minutes or until done.
Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup butter, 1/3 cup milk and 1/4 cup cocoa. Cook until combined, stirring frequently. Add powdered sugar to mixing bowl; gradually beat in chocolate mixture. Add vanilla, mix until smooth. Pour over cooling cake.


Q is for: Quirky

In the movie When Harry Met Sally (dating myself here) we quickly discover Sally's habit of extremely detailed food ordering.

By the end of the movie, Harry is not only at peace with her annoying habit, he lists it as one of the things he loves about her.

Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow is rife with quirks. He twitches, he sways, he mumbles riddles nobody can understand. He's unabashedly selfish and sneaky. Depp's portrayal of Willy Wonka is similar, with a whole other package of quirks/weirdnesses to keep us interested.

Charles Dickens grew to popularity on the backs of his quirky characters like Nurse Ratchet, Miss Havisham, Scrooge. Sheridan's Mrs. Malaprop misused words so frequently that doing so is now called a 'malapropism'. LM Montgomery gave Anne Shirley the deep desire to trade her red hair for black. Dobby the elf likes to wear tea cozies as hats.

If we create them right, our characters should have lots of quirks. These habits/behaviors make them unique, help us to identify with them, give us handles to keep them straight in our minds. I admit - I'm not a quirky person so remembering to add this into my character brew is something I struggle to do.

What are some quirks you've added to your characters?

Apr 17, 2012

P is for: Purple prose

 His smile was a ghastly grimace. As wretched tears rolled down her trembling cheeks, she wondered if she'd ever see the light of day again. The knife blade was only inches from her pearly white throat. He laughed a maniacal laugh, his teeth tiny points of malice.

Oy. That was disturbingly easy to write. Those sentences are littered with adjectives/adverbs that are another form of telling. We get carried away by our own awesomeness, by the idea we can paint a picture with words instead of what isn't said. Let me say that again: what ISN'T said. The most effective writing is one that gives the reader enough info to populate his/her own imagination. It's a fine line and one that can years to perfect.
 Let's see if I can demo this right off the cuff:
He grimaced so she saw his pointed teeth. Tears snaked down her cheeks, hot trails of fear fueled by the knife at her neck.

Far fewer words, yet a much bigger impace on the reader. Or so I hope. You'll have to tell ME which is better. (This is a subjective business, no?)

Now you try. :)

Apr 16, 2012

O is for: olfactory

A while ago while we were trying to sell our first house, our realtor told us to bake some bread or cookies before an open house or a showing. The smell, she told us, would make potential buyers feel good and possibly help them remember our place.

At the time, we lived in the town where Malt-O-Meal is made. Depending on the factory's baking schedule, I'd walk outside and smell chocolate crispies or sugary flakes or (my favorite) chocolate chip cookies. I'd breathe in and taste cereal. To this day, every time I take a bite of one of their cereals, I remember what it was like to live there.

Scents are powerful. Studies tell us that my experience is one we all have, and even museums are starting to use that fact to their advantage. (Go here for more info on the science behind smells.) A museum in York, England, now floods their Viking-era village with the scent of manure and rot so visitors are literally immersed in what life was like back then. Scents allow us to experience new things with all five of our senses.

My WIP right now is set in Alaska at a dog kennel of a young musher whose mother is running the Iditarod. The first time I ever watched the start of a dog mushing race, I was completely surprised by all the poop. I shouldn't have been - dogs poop, and a lot of them poop a lot - but my sanitized expectations didn't consider reality. Of course, it's cold out on a frozen, mostly snow covered lake where most races start so the smell isn't that strong unless you get really close to a team. (I won't go into how the musher smells after eight days on the trail with no showers...) I'm including those smells in this story because I want my readers to experience the same kind of visceral, gut reaction that my MC is having.

How do you integrate the olfactory in your writing?

Apr 15, 2012

N is for: Nebulae

A few views of the Andromeda Nebulae. These photos remind me of how small I am, and how the lens we choose to use so influences what we see...

Have a great day!

Apr 13, 2012

M is for: Melodrama

Definition of MELODRAMA

a : a work (as a movie or play) characterized by extravagant theatricality and by the predominance of plot and physical action over characterization
Back when I was an arts and entertainment reporter, one of my jobs was to preview theatre productions and review restaurants. (It was the BEST JOB.) And one of those gigs involved a hilarious production of the Pirates of Poulsbo, a melodrama based on the Pirates of Penzance. There was the stump-legged captain with parrot, the black-patched first mate, the yellow-haired serving wench with huge boobs, and the young, handsome, really really really stupid newbie deck hand. Given those character descriptions, you can probably figure out the plot. And who needs a plot w/ those guys anyway? The actors asked questions of the audience, who was forced to sing sea chanties and occasionally be pulled up on stage to dance a pirate jig. We all had a blast.
But it's only been recently that the term 'melodrama' meant a spoof. Think of soap operas. Or silent movies. In that context, melodrama means abundant wailing and gnashing of teeth. Evil, mustache-twirling bad guys and swooning damsels in distress. It's so formalic, every episode of Law and Order could be called a melodrama. 
 I can think of a few YA reads that, take away the magic, the sci-fi weapons, the repressive dystopian government, have melodrama written all over them. Which tells me that some storylines never change.
So what does melodrama mean to you? Have you read anything new that is melodramatic?

Apr 12, 2012

L is for: laughter

Star Wars Rules for Life:

I'm back from a trip to Juneau and look forward to catching up on comments. Thanks for stopping by!

Apr 11, 2012

K is for: keeping faith

Cynthia Leitich Smith did a great interview of Beth Revis in honor of A Million Suns' debut last week. This book marks the sequel to Across the Universe, which launched Revis from obscure-writerdom into New York Times bestseller-dom.

Accompanying the interview is this great vlog Revis did for WriteOnCon last year (which is an online writer's conference that is totally awesome) which I somehow missed. But I'm sharing it with you now because Revis's journey is pretty typical.

If you have six minutes, watch, learn and be scared  enjoy!

Apr 10, 2012

J is for: Jealousy

It's one of the seven deadly sins. When it rears its ugly green head (no idea why jealousy is always metaphorically green), bad things happen.

Stories happen.

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is basically a story about jealousy. Yeah, Catherine and Heathcliffe are supposedly this great love story but if you take a hard look at their characters, both are motivated by a mishmash of jealousy, lust and spite. A horrid, polluting combo, which makes me think Miss E was merciful in killing one of them off.

Or how about Snow White? That evil stepmother/queen couldn't stand to have anyone more beautiful than her in the entire kingdom (which, when you think about it, is a really sexist premise for a plot. No one's ever heard of a king going psycho because his stepson was a hotter hottie than he). Poor Snowy's plight is still kicking plots around today. If you haven't seen the trailer for "Snow White and the Huntsmen" yet, do. Now.

And what about Toy Story?  Buzz-the-annoying-Space-Toy shows up and blows Woody's ordered world to pieces. Woody's attempts to off Buzz are what start the whole series rolling.

Oh yes, jealousy is a handy little urge for authors. It's human nature to want what we can't have. What are some other stories where the evil J is the prime plot mover?

Apr 9, 2012

I is for Igloos - an Alaskan poem

R.G. Cantalupo

Perhaps merely the idea of whiteness draws us,
the way the white lines, the fissures of ice, the made structure itself disappears inside

the silent depths. Or perhaps the way the wind dies down to a muffled growl as we slip inside the white skin of bear, the belly of the moon.

Or the way we are left then with only language,
our voices heard in the white dome of the cosmos,
our stories flickering in the fire; left with merely

these shadows written on the walls of snow.
Here, the trick of permanence. There, the illusion
of stilled water, the gift of holding river and storm

quiet in the rough texture of our hands. No day
now. No night. The vast turquoise sky not changing
to a black mask pricked with eyes. Out of the flames

gods come, spirits, ghosts bearing visions and old battles. Out of the white nothing, we create the living light, the universe of blood, a new world.

Apr 8, 2012

H is for: Heaven and hell, a discussion of fictional honesty

There is a certain supernatural novel I read recently. In it, fallen angels are handsome, dangerous boys who happen to be close to the MC's age. They're immature, full of conceit and irony, and for some inexplicable reason, make the MC almost pant with yearning despite the fact the one she likes blows so hot and cold, she'd have more success using a hair dryer inside a freezer.

Then there is the tale of a girl angel, bound to protect a certain handsome human. She, of course, falls in love and is caught  in a snare of her own emotions. He is mortal, she's got a hot-demon rival for her love and however will they make it work? Especially in fifty years when she's the same age and he's an old geezer...

Basically, these stories are romance novels. The angels and demons don't behave like their namesakes- which aren't human, can't reproduce and have a specific, limited purpose on Earth if one reads the Judeo-Christian stories. The authors lifted certain elements in these stories out of context - while still relying on readers' understanding of those traditions - yet substitute in no new rules for the ones they discard. In these stories, an angel is simply a girl with wings who lives a really long time. A demon is a misunderstood young man who, inspired by his pure love for a girl, fights against his twisted nature.

Now, I have no problem with either of these character types. What I question is their titles. Let's say I want to write a book about animals and my MC is a raccoon. We all know what a raccoon looks like, right? Striped fuzzy tail, cute little hands, a mask around its eyes, can hiss like a cat. In my story, I don't have to waste words describing this animal  because almost everyone has seen one and knows how it behaves just from reading its title. This is called prior knowledge.

But I've decided that my raccoon doesn't have a tail. In fact, it has wings. And four sets of hands. And its fur shoots lightning. It still has a mask around its eyes, though, but instead of scavenging for garbage and living in attics, my raccoons rule the world.

Right there, I took your prior knowledge and stamped it to pieces. I've manipulated the concept of a raccoon beyond all recognition. So why did I insist on calling my MC a raccoon? Why not just call it a ransflog? Or a coopcat?

Authors like Tamora Pierce, Juliet Marillier and Frank Peretti build their worlds from almost whole cloth. Marillier weaves her settings around Druidic tradition while Peretti stays true to the Christian idea of angels and demons battling it out in unseen realms. And Pierce pulls an entire world's mythology straight from her imagination. All these writers stay consistent to the rules of their chosen tradition - whatever they are - drawing the reader into a satisfying conclusion. They don't need a bait-and-switch to keep you hooked.

So what do you think? Is it possible for an author to be lazy in their worldbuilding? Or should anything go in fiction?

Apr 6, 2012

G is for: Glamour - what kind, how much, how do you know what to include in your MS?

There's a sorceress character in Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters series who has the Glamour. Simply put, she's able to subtly alter her appearance to fool everyone around her into thinking she's younger and more beautiful than she really is. In Child of the Prophecy, her granddaughter inherits that ability and Marillier uses that tactic as a plot point in several ways. (BTW, if you're into magical realism, I highly recommend that series. I love them so much I own every book!)

We all want a little bit of glamour in our MS, whether it's the supernatural/trickery kind or the expensive clothes/manicure/transformation scene that so many novels have. There's something so alluring about subjecting an MC to a harsh adventure which results in split ends, ground-in dirt and torn clothes, only to rescue them and surround them with silky opulence. This transformation is used in many ways - think Pretty Woman vs. Wizard of Oz vs. The Hunger Games - but is so common, it requires a little thinking and skill to avoid the cliche.

In my WIP, THE TALISMAN, I go the reverse route. My MC is wealthy, beautiful and used to things going her way. She's a bit insulated from the real world and part of her transformation includes an intense experience with harsh conditions, grime, hunger and lack of water. She's kind of a reverse Cinderella - her personal growth can't happen until she's out of her comfort zone.

Whether your plot includes rags-to-riches or richest-to-rags, how do you manipulate your readers' inner desire for the richness, safety and comfort that money can bring? How could you use glamour to strengthen your plot?

Apr 5, 2012

F is for: favorite words

I love words. They're like bits of shiny clay to me, all malleable and colorful and useful. I like to tangle them together, prod them into different lines, see what rhymes or what clashes. Poems are like pieces of jewelry, glittering gems all strung together to make one beautiful declaration.

But there are some words that, were they human, would make the Book of Beautiful People. A quick search revealed several lists of gorgeous words out there so I'll be borrowing from a few of them (like this one here, minus the vulgar language, and here and can't resist here). 

glimmer, glitter, dazzle, all those words that have sequins attached :)
diaphanous or gossamer- LOVE these, makes me think of soft silk
effervescent - all bubbly like champagne

I could go on...but I want to know your favorites. Share them in the comments!

Apr 4, 2012

E is for: Exotic - writing a place you've never been

(The lovely Taryn Albright interviewed me re: revision techniques on her blog today. Check it out: http://tarynalbright.com)

Write what you know.

View of the old city, Jerusalem
We've all heard that, right? Fortunately, few writers take that to mean 'write only what you've experienced'. Because if we did that, Michael Crichton would never have written Jurassic Park. Hunger Games would still be an idea. Lewis and Tolkien would never have started The Inklings.

So what does that phrase really mean? IMO, it means that if you don't know it, and you want to write about it, do some research. Or even if you have been to your desired setting before but it's been years, you'll need to brush up on certain things. Check out this list:

Weather. Use local weather to influence your mood.  If the scene was happy or romantic, the sun was shining or setting. For murder/mayhem - fog/sandstorm/rain, depending on your setting's climate.

Speech patterns. Check idioms and regional phrases - do people say 'some' instead of 'very?' How would someone from Australia say, "That's really cool" ? Authenticity will deepen the appeal of your writing.

Architecture. What's the typical home look like in your location? What makes it unique - high roofline, arched windows, cedar siding, big porches? Is there a widely known building/location you could write a scene around?

Local customs. Do people kiss each cheek when greeting each other? Do they kick off their shoes before entering a stranger's house? Maybe there's a favorite bumpersticker a lot of people from one area have. (Where I live, it's "Alaska Girls Kick A**" among others....) How could you work those customs into your writing?

Food. If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the same is true for a reader. Tell us everything about a meal - the scents, the flavors, the textures and colors - and we're right there with you. Everybody loves a good meal. Think: Under the Tuscan Sun. Mmmmmmm....if you can make it work with your plot, go for it.

Clothing. I hesitated to add this last bc seriously, nobody walks around naked even in fiction, but I think clothing is an important part of setting - especially if you write anything but contemporary. From Katniss to Scarlett O'Hara, what our characters wear says a lot about what's happening to them and when.

What have I missed? What do you add to make your setting addictive?

Apr 3, 2012

D is for: Dickinson, Emily



"Hope" is the thing with feathers

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Apr 2, 2012

C is for: Creating a monster

One of the biggest books I'm anticipating for 2012 is Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. I fell in love with Cashore's world while reading an ARC of Graceling in 2009 and her companion novel, Fire, did not disappoint.

Cashore said it's taken her three years to write the final in this trilogy in an interview with Enchanted Inkpot blog. One of the reasons she said she struggled was having to deal with Leck, a horrible, sadistic character that overlaps in all three books (and actually, his appearance makes them companion novels). Leck enjoys twisting people into doing his bidding.

" I can’t imagine ever writing more than a few pages from Leck’s viewpoint; I honestly think it would be bad for my mental health to try to do more," Kristin told her interviewer, Cindy Pon"He really doesn’t have a single redeeming quality, and writing the glimpses into his psyche was a disturbing experience for me."

That reminded me of a scene I'd struggled with a few days before. Creepy Guy wasn't even an MC - just a character I'd created to keep tension high. Oh, and he made my skin crawl. He had really bad urges and smelled like blood and  he had pustules all over his skin...ugh. I couldn't wait to kill him off. And I didn't wait. One brutal, gory scene later and bye, bye Creepy Guy.

I also avoid stories with characters like that who narrate. There's enough awful stuff in the world today without entering into the mind of a fictional killer, IMO. But there's no denying that they drive a whole genre of mysteries/thrillers, which is my preferred genre to both read and write. So sooner or later, I'm going to have to have a more than passing relationship with a nasty.

So...what do you do when you've got to pull a Dr. Frankenstein and crawl inside the monster of your own creation? How do you keep that slimey feeling from coating your brain while you plot?

Apr 1, 2012

B is for: Building a platform - pointless time suck or preparing for the future?

One of my favorite blogs to follow is The Intern, a young, editorial-assistant-turned-Big-Six-author who, of anyone out there, is the poster girl for building an online presence. So I read with interest this post on the benefits of social media for budding writers...or lack of them.

To sum up what you can read by following the link, a writer friend of Intern's did an experiment: she social mediaed the heck out of her book for six months, then erased her entire online presence and watched what happened.

Can you guess? Right. Nothing. Her Amazon sale numbers remained exactly the same.

So...what do you think? Is her experience the norm?

And if it is, would it change the way you blog?

A is for : Aphorisms

According to Wikipedia, an aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic (concise) and memorable form.

Dictionary.com says it's 'a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation, as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton).'

So basically, an aphorism is when you say something really deep without using a lot of words. It's also very quotable, which kinda takes away the 'original thought' idea of Wikipedia's definition. Aphorisms turn into cliches (a phrase which has been repeated so often, it loses its original meaning/effect) very easily. 

Here are a few of my favorites:

I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money. - Pablo Picasso

Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. - JFK

The human race has improved everything but the human race. - Adlai Stevenson

Easy writings curse is hard reading. - Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Find more writing-related aphorisms at Huffington Post by clicking here, including this one:

I am a storyteller. If I'd wanted to send a message, I would have written a sermon. - Phillip Pullman

Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Pullman? Is it really possible not to write with a message?  Share your thoughts - or your favorite aphorism - in the comments!