Blue Sky Tag

My writerly friend Allison recently got tagged for the Blue Sky challenge, and I’ve taken it up next in line!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Thank the person who tagged you
  • Answer their 11 questions
  • Tag 11 people
  • Give them 11 questions to answer

Allison’s questions are:

If you could live inside the world of a book, which would it be and why?

Ooh, tough one. Somewhere I could fly, or breathe underwater. Maybe the world of the Ven Polypheme books.

What’s your favorite cookie?

Whichever one I have in hand at the moment? I love the sugar cookies you buy at the store, the thick sandy ones with colored frosting, but the lemon/lime tea cookies are awesome, too. . . Then there are Oreos. . . Maybe #1? Why do I have to choose?

What’s your opinion on reading / keeping books in the bathroom? 

Err, can I pass on this question? 🙂

What’s the oldest song you’ve ever listened to?

The first ever documented music, found on an old Sumerian tablet and played on a lyre. 😉  http://www.openculture.com/2014/07/the-oldest-song-in-the-world.html

Have you ever met a famous person?

Nope! I’m sure one of my writer friends will be famous one day, though.

What’s your favorite movie or movie series? 

The Captain America movies!! He’s my favorite superhero, and Anthony and Joe Russo are marvels (har-har) at the art of story-writing!! Geniuses.

Do you play any musical instruments?

I do actually. The piano is my instrument. I’m also tentatively dabbling with the recorder.

Do you prefer standalone novels or book series?

A series, of course! Who doesn’t prefer to have multiple books with the same awesome characters? But usually I prefer the shorter series. After 4 or 5, it just seems kind of stretched. Like butter over too much bread. . . .

If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Ow-w, that’s not a nice question, my precious, no!! Chicken-fried steak? Watermelon?

Can you balance Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on your head?

Don’t own a copy, but I’m gonna go with yes. Book balancing (for about 30 seconds, anyway) is one of my better skills.

Is there life on Mars?

Hmm, I’m going to go with probably. Even if it’s only extremophiles. I don’t believe there’s intelligent life out there, but as the Mariana Trench proves, life is pretty persistent and widespread. 🙂

 

So there it is. Now, on to my variations on the questions (I’m gonna cheat here and pass on some of Allison’s as well):

  1. If you could live inside the world of a book, which would it be and why?
  2. What’s your favorite movie or movie series?
  3. Do you prefer standalone novels or book series?
  4. What’s the oldest song you’ve ever listened to?
  5. Country quiet or city scene?
  6. Who’s your favorite comic strip character?
  7. Can the movie ever be better than the book?
  8. Fairy tales or superheroes?
  9. Is there life on Mars?
  10. What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
  11. Cold or warm weather fiend?

This is open to anyone who wants to take a stab at it, but I am going to pass it to two specific victims:

Claire Banschbach of the Overactive Imagination

E.E.Rawls

Operation: 100 Sales on Launch Day!

So, after waiting and waiting and waiting . . . here’s the book we’ve been excited about for months! (Practically ever since I heard about it!) Nate Philbrick’s Where the Woods Grow Wild comes out today. Mob the stores—virtual and online, just in case those are different things—and procure yourself a copy peoples!!! This is one of the books I got to beta-read this year, and I can definitely say that I’m wildly excited to get my hands on a real, live copy of it!!

You Write Fiction

Happy Saturday, everybody! So, I’ve got a minor announcement…Where the Woods Grow Wild is officially out! If you’ve been following the countdown on Twitter/Instagram or the build-up posts right here, then you knew this day was coming, and here it is!

book1coverfinished

A forest looms over Bardun Village. Nobody goes in. Nothing comes out. The secrets in the oaks remain hidden until a mischievous escapade thrusts Martin and Elodie behind the silent trees. Separated and lost in a tangle of fantasy, they discover more than animals roam where the woods grow wild.

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I’ve got a few topics to cover in this post, so let’s move right along. First of all, a huge thank you to anyone and everyone who has encouraged me and supported me throughout the whole creation process of WtWGW, from family to strangers on social media. It hasn’t always been a smooth or pleasant ride, but you…

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Stages of the Writing Month – feat. Disney

So, as most of you know, the writing madness starts Today. Just in case anyone still had questions about how this deal works, I thought I’d pull up a little explanatory post, and show you how it really looks from a writer’s point of view:

Image result for aladdin and lamp disney

But, what is it?

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A piece of cake, they say. . . .

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Slow and steady, Pfffft.

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The first time your characters decide to take things in hand.

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Sharing something special with other writers . . . .

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The second wind is important, but never rely on surviving it.

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Add a bit of  last minute panic. . . .

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 And the writer sleeps tonight . . . . Ha.

(giphy.com)

Doesn’t it sound like fun?

Come . . . Join Us!

Sign from Above – Short Story

Sign from Above

A light rain sprinkled the town square as the people waited in silence. The Mayor stared around, tucked his fingers self-importantly into the sleeves of his vest, and coughed. There was a collective groan from the crowd. Nothing would be decided today, at any rate. The Mayor never did anything until the portents approved.

“And so,” he concluded, importantly, “Until there has been some clear sign, of what we are to do in this matter, the prisoners shall remain under guard until they can pay their fines.”

Half the square again groaned dismally. The Mayor stared out in slight confusion, then nodded again, and with a slight “Ah-rem” stepped off the back of the block and headed out of the square.

The crowd stared at itself in dismay. The Sheriff looked helplessly at his aides, then shook his head in disbelief. But there was nothing for it. They moved through the crowd, slowly splitting it into  almost even halves. Then slowly, they started the larger half moving toward the small, thatched building—with a set of stone rooms attaching at the back—that stood at the farther edge of the square.

The remainder of the crowd stared. As the prisoners parted from the law-abiding citizens, one broke from the edge of the group, grabbing at a brown-haired, green-capped citizen in the law-abiding crowd, pulling him with him as a sheriff’s aide motioned him on.

“Hey, what’s with all of this? He can’t really think this will work can he?”

The green-capped one shrugged. “He always does things this way. Can’t make a move until he gets a clear sign.”

The prisoner gave him a disbelieving look, one blacked eye lending it a particular impressiveness. “A sign? He’s got half the town, plus a few random passersby in the jug for “participating in a fracas,” and he wants to wait around for a sign to tell him what to do about it?” He paused for a half moment, then eyed his companion a bit more thoughtfully—with a hint of something brewing in his blackened eye—as they tried to walk without watching their footing. “What kind of sign?”

The cap bobbed as its wearer shrugged again. “Oh, it’s never the same. Once when the town harvest wasn’t doing so well, it took thirteen sick cases to tell him what to do next. Could even be a cloud that looks a funny shape, a blackbird, you name it.” He stopped, a look dawning in his eyes, as the jail drew up ahead.

“We can’t wait around for thirteen sick cases—or deaths which might be more likely given the number of people crammed together. I don’t want to have to spend any more time in this crazy town than I have to, and I’m betting these few other strangers wouldn’t mind getting out either.”

He broke off as an aide pushed him through the door, in a hurry to file through half a town’s worth of prisoners who hadn’t committed more than a social gaff by being in the middle of a fight that broke out between out-of-town strangers over a watering hole.

“All right, all right, don’t shove, I’m moving.” Before he moved through the door, he tossed a sheath knife and a ball of string at his companion. “See what you can do with that, will ya’?”

 

The holding rooms were more crowded than a rabbit warren’s family reunion. Over the general hubbub, rose the fretful voice of the Mayor’s aunt demanding her tea. In one corner, several twelve-year-olds were playing a game of mumblety-peg, dangerously close to bystanders’ feet.

Despite the noise, however, he could still hear the voices of several of the sheriff’s aides who had been unfortunate enough to be left to watch the prisoners.

“Phwaah, what does the blimey idiot think we are, a hotel?”

“He’s had some hot ones before, but this—!

“Him and his omens—All right, all right, I’ll bring the dratted tea!”

He leaned  back against the uncomfortable wall and couldn’t imagine for the life of him how the Mayor had managed to stay running the town for so long. Well, if the chap in the green hat managed to get them out of here, maybe he could return the favor.

 ***

The jailhouse door flung open with a thud, and the chap he had grabbed in the square burst in, hat clasped to his head to hold it on.

He stood up stiffly, waving him over frantically, before he could spout anything that might give the game away. The messenger of—hopefully—good news, spotted him and trotted over. “It worked!”

The reluctant guest of the mayor breathed a sigh of relief. “How’d you rig it?”

A grin almost touched either side of the green hat. “Your dagger wasn’t quite enough, had to borrow a few more, but it worked out. Turns out, several daggers in the door, plus a thirteenth extra dropped on his pillow just as he came in—judicious placement of a bit of string—were more than enough omen for our wise leader. He’s reconsidered, and decided that paying the fine would be easier for folks if they were out and about to make it up. Funny how that works . . . . But I have an order for the Sheriff saying as much. Everyone’s to be let go.”

He motioned one of the aides over. Curious, the rest followed, but he was forestalled by a warning hand before he could say any more.

“Look, this is great, but what if any of us who don’t belong here actually come back through, and he tries to make us pay the fine? It’s just going to make trouble again.” He watched as the four residents of the town traded troubled, knowing glances. He nodded. “What I thought. How’d you like to get rid of him, or at least give him a little less standing?”

The glances this time were appraising, and slightly anticipating.

He smiled, “Here’s what you do . . . .”

Thirty minutes later, all of the prisoners were shaking hands in the square outside—all but one. The Mayor’s aunt still fumed in the cell, tea not sufficient to appease her wrath. Judicious placement of tea leaves in the Mayor’s apartments were the only things needed for Fate to take a hand.


BlogBattle word: portents

Genre: humor

What Makes a Memorable Character?

What’s the Fascination?

It’s something most writers hope for, that one character that grips the mind—and heart— of the book-loving populace, one they can’t get enough of. This is the kind of character that could end up getting you movie offers, right? But what makes that kind of character? What is it about them that people can’t resist?

After reading several posts dealing with similar subjects , and examining several of the characters that grip me most, I’ve come to a conclusion.

A truly fascinating character  really is a Dichotomy.

Let me explain. I picked two of the best characters I could think of to be my examples, the Wizard Howl, and Jack Sparrow (Cap’n Jack Sparrow, to you).

The dichotomy usually comes as a clash of Good (traits, morals, etc.) and Bad, usually, and most effectively perhaps, as a clash of direct opposites.

Common Forms of the Clash

In many cases, Howl and Jack, for instance, the Bad seems to be the dominating trait, which makes the Character all the more intriguing. We know the Good is in there, we’re just never sure when or how it will manifest itself.

For instance, throughout the majority of the book, Howl is about as cowardly and careless as they come—not to mention vain. The Witch of the Waste is a looming danger, Howl has people he needs to be rescuing, but all he can find the time to do is lead on the local bevy of ladies and hide from his responsibilities—literally, as well as figuratively. His Bad habits are made even more apparent when he sends an old woman to make excuses for him to the king. Doesn’t make him sound all that lovable, does it?

But eventually, we realize that defeating the Witch is what he’s been working on all along, even when he seemed to be doing other things. He’s still a coward—he even admits that he had to get himself drunk so he didn’t run away, trying to fool himself into believing he wouldn’t face the Witch—but underneath it all, he really is brave. Even if he can’t  admit it even to himself.

It’s the same way with his affections. Through the entire book, he looks like he’s as hardhearted and uncaring as they come. He breaks the heart of every pretty girl he meets and never seems to care (except when they come after him with murderous intent). But in the end, Calcifer, the fire demon, puts Howl’s case plainly when he says that “[Howl’s] really very softhearted.” And events prove it.

Jack Sparrow is the same type of character.

Image result for jack sparrow but you've heard of me

His position is absurd. He comes into port on a sinking raft. He’s constantly drunk, he’s the master of a constantly stolen ship, he’s a stinker—willing to sacrifice someone else to save his own skin—and somehow we love him. He combines the ridiculous aspects of his character with dash, and at times, more nerve and daring than would be believable if you had any other character. He has wit and a bizarre humor, which might add something to it, for those of us who prefer a little snark . . . but that’s beside the point.

What about Mainly Good Characters?

A lot of writers (myself included) however, prefer to man their stories with the more typical “hero,” and with these guys, giving them a pull towards the Bad can often make them seem more like an anti-hero, which makes it a lot harder to add that fascination readers love.

Marvel gives a literal, visible example of the Dichot Character (as we’ll call him) with reversed Traits, in the Avengers’ Bruce Banner. The majority of the time, Banner is a decent, hardworking guy, trying to make the world a better place with his research, helping the sick in third world countries. The rest of the time, he’s a mindless, hulking green rage monster, inflicting destruction wherever he goes. It’s this pull in completely opposite directions, the inner conflict it automatically breeds, that makes for a compelling character. And, in this case, since he has no choice in the matter, makes us all the more ready to sympathize with him.

The Moral of the Story

The Moral of this story is, if you want readers to flip over your character, give him two opposing pulls. Just remember, these two pulls don’t necessarily have to be  Good or Bad—absolute Blacks and Whites are more effective, however— especially if you’re writing a mainly Good character. Any opposing characteristics combined within the same character will produce an interesting conflict. If he’s super-strong, physically or morally, give him an interesting Achilles’ Heel. If he’s absolutely confident in most respects, give him a devastating doubt in another.

According to K M Weiland, who’s written several posts on the subject, “it’s the dichotomy in a character like this that ends up making him that much more fascinating and compelling.”

What makes a character interesting and memorable to you?

Rough It – BlogBattle Short Story

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Rough It – (An (almost) true story set during one of the most terrible periods of human history)

What was perfection anyway? She stared down, trying to push down her immediate, ingrained reaction to something rough and unpolished. She grabbed for her red pen instinctively, then held it uncertainly over the page. She hesitated, thinking. Everyone had told her a rough draft could be just that, rough . . . but could it?

She stared in horror at the jumbled mess of run-on sentences that littered her previously beautiful white papers. No, she told herself firmly, no it would not. Not on her manuscript.  Some people might be sloppy, but not her. The red ink descended again, but before she could make any devastating blows to her word count, she took a glance at the meter she had been keeping track on. Then her eyes flew to the clock. Only nine hundred words, and it was already 4:00 in the afternoon. The pen of dripping doom dropped to the desk as her jaw dropped to the floor. She looked again, then, since the time hadn’t changed, nor the word-count, she dropped her head on her crossed arms and moaned. The numbers 1667 were pasted across her brain like the Bat Signal. How did people do this?!?

The noise seemed to help, so she moaned again.

Her phone, lying abandoned on the shelf behind her buzzed lightly in a familiar ringtone. She glared at it. The owner of the present ringtone had been the one to put her onto this whole “Writing Month” to begin with. She remembered the conversation vividly.

“Come on, you’re a great writer, I know you can do this.”

She had hesitated doubtfully. “Yeah, but everything I’ve read says you have to let the first draft be terrible, if that’s how it comes out. . . . I don’t think I can do that.”

Her older sister had laughed at her —laughed! and looked around the spick and span, almost unnaturally tidy-looking room. “I know you’re a perfectionist, Sis. You just have to learn when that’s a bad thing and when you should listen to it. That’s a lot of what Nano is about. But you can do it. Come on, it’ll even be kinda fun when you get right down to it.”

She snorted indignantly. Fun! The same way getting your nails surgically removed might be fun once you started. The phone jingled again, and finally she picked it up.

“Hey, how’s it going?” Her sister’s voice hovered between amused and sympathetic. “Mom said you hadn’t come out for several hours, I figured you might be stuck.”

The despairing writer came to the top again, and she moaned audibly.

“Listen, you’ve got to lighten up about this. I told you, no one is going to be perfect anyway, no matter how many times they rewrite, so why worry about it? Tolkien had to rewrite a scene over and over, and he still wasn’t happy when it was published. Just don’t worry about it, alright?”

“That’s easy for you to say! Just how am I not “supposed to worry about it”? I can’t even think with all these blots staring back at me. I’m trying to write the next scene, but I just keep coming back to what needs to be fixed in the last one!”

She threw the phone against the bed, and when she picked it back up, the call had been disconnected. She swallowed. But an instant later, a text from the same number popped onto the screen.

Try looking for a muse, instead of mistakes.”

She swallowed again, then shoved the main stack of papers off of her desk. Still lying slumped over the back of her swivel chair, she pushed it over to the coffeepot and switched it on. A warm, steaming cup in her hands, she shuffled back to the desk. She flicked the red pen off the surface, and readied her normal one.

After a second of helpless staring, she gave up, grabbed a pencil and a fresh sheet of paper. What she came up with looked vaguely like a cartoon character, but it worked.

Image result for toothless drawings

She grabbed up her pen with fresh determination. “Okay Muse, guess we’d better get started. If you don’t work, I’m through with this. Think you can keep me on track?”

It might have been her fever imagination, but from the corner of her eye, as she bent back to her paper, the the nearer eye of the scribbled figure seemed to wink confidently.


 

BlogBattle Word (and yes of course it’s about Nano, what else would you expect? I’m dying in anticipation over here!!): Perfect (Perfect word for it, huh? Apologies, terrible joke. *hangs head in shame, but not really*)

Genre: I’m labeling it humor/inspirational (Because what’s more inspirational—other than parentheses—than a tiny Toothless muse for Nanowrimo?)

(Drawing from http://www.Daycoloring.com)

 

Preparing for Fall . . . (Nano Prep, etc.)

Around here (probably everywhere else, too, but hey) things are just starting to get pretty nice. Fall weather’s starting to roll in, which means it’s just cool enough to make snuggling down in a blanket with a book and a cup of something hot really amazing. It’s also cool enough now to make my preferred writing spot—outside, with my typewriter—a sane option again. Hooray!

And, as an added bonus, (in case you don’t have a calendar handy) it’s October. This means November is right around the corner. (Don’t let my brilliant logic stun you, there.) And this month most writers are either in a state of frenzied excitement—the crazy ones, myself included—or overwhelming dread and insecurity—the smart ones, myself also included. This is because November, the writing month of the year, is right next door.

I usually take the National Novel Writing Month challenge—Nanowrimo, as it may be better known—but with some creative liberties. I usually set my own word count, Camp Nano style, rather than Traditional Nano.

But since a lot of my problem is with inspiration and not knowing what I’m going to write before I start, I have a little higher hopes this year. (I actually have soaring hopes, but in the back somewhere, reality is trying to butt in. And it’s probably right.)

So, what I’m doing for Nano looks a lot like this:

1.Structuring: So I have a plan to follow to lead me through the swamps of Nano.

Resources: The Secrets of Story Structure and The Story Structure Database

2. Characters and Plot Goals: To help me with problems in the structure and outline.

Resources: The Nano Pre-Writing Checklist

3. Making Notes: I work through plot holes and discrepancies manually. This simply means that I have at least eight pages in my notebook covered with “what if” questions. I start with the hole or problem, then work out answers, studying them and giving them in turn “what if” questions, until I come up with something I like. If I have a scene that’s giving me grief, I work through the scene structure itself, making certain it will cover all the points. (I only worry about scene structure if a scene really doesn’t seem to be working.)

Resources: Scene Structure Series

4. Research: My work in progress is set in a slightly historical, speculative setting, and I’ve been working on getting the research I’m going to need beforehand, so when I get on a roll, I won’t have to worry about stopping to read up on anything.

5. Obsessing (and checking the Nano site every two hours): This is an important step, but one that doesn’t have to be taught, I’m sure.

So, in other words, I’m doing something new this year by actually preparing for Nano. The previous years I tried to wing it seat-of-the-pants style, and it never really worked. Okay, it didn’t work at all. But this year, since I’ve become a disciple of Structure, I’ve had something more to go on.

At the moment, I’m planning to go back to last year’s Nano, presently going by the name Wheels Within (my present WIP that hasn’t gotten far since last November). Since this is the case, I’ve pulled it up for in-depth examination and plot-restructure. It’s got some major holes, and I’m trying to decide if  one of the new additions is going to mean some massive rewrites and add-ins or not. Either way, it means more words!

So, as my Nano prep, I have a notebook with about eight pages of digging, trying to figure out these plot holes. I plan to tackle the structure again today and see if I can’t make some sense out of it. And, to top it off, I have about 10, 000 words that will need a rewrite and additions.

I’m still nervous, but I can’t wait for November to start! Anybody else out there going through any of this?