Friday, December 31, 2010

From Your Friendly Professional Nag

Yep. I'm breaking out the cattle prod again.

We all know that if you want to be a "real" writer, you need to write as much as possible . . . preferably every day. Maybe that's your New Year's Resolution: write every day. Maybe it's a resolution you've had before, but every time you sit down and face that blank page, you struggle: "Okay. I'm here. Butt in chair, ready to write." And that cursor blinks at you on that big white screen; or that blank notebook looks up at you with all those pristine lines waiting to be filled with your beautiful words. That blank page/screen can be very intimidating! So here are some links to help you out.

Get a daily(ish) prompt at these sites, so that when you sit down at that blank page, you'll have an idea to write about. Use them as morning pages, a general warm-up, or see if you can turn a prompt into a full-fledged story (a lot of my stories started out as prompts)!

The One-Minute Writer

Sunday Scribblings

Dragon Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt (on Twitter)

No Telling

Creative Writing Ink

Bibliographic Junkies (Yahoo Group)

And why do I have all these links? Because I have problems facing the blank page, too. And I have trouble making sure I write EVERY DAY.

I'll plan to hold myself accountable for writing every day by posting my daily progress on Twitter (except weekends; I'm not a slave driver). If you'd like to do the same, you can follow me on Twitter (and I'll follow you back), and we'll hold each other accountable (cheers when you write; gentle encouragement to do better tomorrow when you don't). Just post your progress every day. Let's make 2011 the year we finally make our "write every day" goal!

Or, if Facebook is more your style, you can join Kelly L. Stone's 90 day writing challenge and get the year off to a good start (the challenge ends in April, but that doesn't mean you can't keep the momentum going through the year). You can sign up on Facebook here:

Author Kelly L. Stone's 90-Day Writing Challenge

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kentucky Chupacabra

Here's an interesting video about a Kentucky Chupacabra:

That's how it works in Kentucky. None of that, "We saw a monster and ran" nonsense. In the Kentucky woods it's, "We saw a monster and shot the sucker." I know that's what my family would do.

For me, this video has put the possibility of a chupacabra back on the table (not as some supernatural goatsucker, but as a potentially real new species or sub-species). Authorities were dismissing the chupacabra as merely coyotes with mange. This latest creature, however, is too small for a coyote. Sure, it could be a baby coyote or a fox. But mange? Admittedly, I've not seen every animal with mange. But the dogs and cats I have seen with mange usually have bad skin. In the places where the fur is missing and patchy, the exposed skin looks like the animal has psoriasis: read, raw, flaky, inflamed. But these animals supposedly have mange so bad that all their fur has fallen out, and yet the skin remains healthy looking (wrinkled, yes, but not red and inflamed). The skin on the creature in the video looks no worse than the skin of those hairless chihuahuas (who are also usually bald, grey and wrinkled).

In my opinion the mange explanation isn't valid. Nor is any explanation using some kind of a skin disease that's causing a normal, fur-bearing species to lose its hair; if that were the case, the skin should show disease. And since this video shows an animal freshly killed, it can't have lost the fur after death.

So what is it? A hairless chihuahua someone abandoned in the woods? A new species?

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goodbye to the old weird year

Kissless Christmas
Aw! Now what are the drunken revelers going to stand under to embarrass themselves at the office Christmas party?

Glow in the Dark Tourism
I went on vacation in Russia and all I got was this lousy radiation burn.

Flamingos Gather in Flamingo Shape
Wow. Talk about a bunch of camera hams!

Mutant Mosquitoes Released into the Wild
Apparently, watching the movie Mimic needs to be a prerequisite to receiving a science degree!

Woman Sues Google For Exposing Her Underwear on Street View
I think I can find who's really to blame: Woman Sues Google For Exposing Her Underwear on Street View. Don't hang your laundry in view of the street. I wouldn't want creepy neighbor Earl ogling my underwear on the line, much less the whole world (hey! Did you ever notice how close "Googling" and "ogling" are?)

And last but not least:
The Weird Science Awards for 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best and Worst Horror Movies of 2010

Time for a look back at the best and worst horror films of 2010. I'll have to rely on the experts here, since I almost never go to the theater to see a movie; I always wait until they are released on DVD (and thus, old news, lol).

Jeff's Top Horror Films of 2010

Best Horror Movies of 2010 (

I managed to see four films on the lists:

Daybreakers: I was psyched about the premise (vampires are the dominant species/ruling culture), and there is so much they could have done with the idea--but they didn't. I was unimpressed.

Legion: Also not impressed. I loved the little granny who clings to the ceiling and the ice cream man, but the rest of the movie was pretty lame. The only good that came out of that movie is that our family still jokes about it, often quoting the little granny's line about the babies and joking around about ice cream man phobia (the ice cream truck actually parked right beside my house last summer, and I sent photos to everyone with the caption "Help! Send more ammo!").

Shutter Island: I liked it, but not as much as most other people seem to. It was interesting and suspenseful at first, but the ending seemed a bit contrived and disappointing.

Predators: My fav for 2010. I was skeptical about the whole Topher Grace thing, but I ended up pleasantly surprised. It was much better than AVP Requiem.

So what was your favorite horror movie of 2010?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bright Shiny New Year/Dusty Old Manuscript

Checked out this link today: the art of creating writing goals

I've been working on my 2011 goals as part of my business plan, and this year is going to be novel-centric for me. My three main goals for 2011 are:

1) Finish revision and edits on the novel (Macha Mong Ruadh) I wrote a few years ago. I wrote the novel, got about halfway through editing it, and then abandoned it completely. It's been collecting dust in a drawer for at least three years. Now it's time to pick it back up and finish it off. This novel will be ready to shop around to agents before the end of the year. I'm shooting for having it in the mail by the end of June.

2) Once Macha Mong Ruadh is shipped out to agents, I'm going to turn my focus to the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo. Since I don't know how long it's going to take to get Macha on its way, I can't get too specific with this goal. If I can get Macha out the door by June, then the NaNo novel might be ready to go by Jan 2012. If Macha takes longer, so will this novel. But, at a minimum, I want to have at least one major revision done on the NaNo novel by the end of the year.

3) Write 500 words per day (the same goal that I have for the first few months of the year, during Kelly L. Stone's 90-day writing challenge). I think that 500 words a day, even while revising/editing novels, is not only very doable, it's also necessary: I'm going to need the daily break from revision/editing and the "enthusiasm boost" of doing something fresh. I think my revision/editing process will be all the better because of it.

My secondary goals are to write at least one complete short story per month and to get six short stories published. These are my "I wish" goals, and they take a backseat to the novel-editing goals.

On the personal front, I plan to quit lozenges. Back in 2005, when my mother was first diagnosed with lung cancer, I quit smoking by using Nicotine lozenges. I've used them off and on for the last five years--but I've never smoked again! But now it's time to say goodbye to the nicotine lozenges entirely. I hope the rest of my family survives 2011, LOL!

So that's it! That's my big plan for 2011. I'll post updates on Twitter and here in the blog to keep you updated on how I'm doing (you'll probably be able to tell how the lozenge-quitting is going by how snarky my posts are).

What are your goals for 2011 (writing or otherwise)?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eggnog Recovery Day

I'm declaring this "National Eggnog Recovery Day" and taking the day off to rest my wrapping-paper-cut-fingers and my bleary "let's take x-mas photos" flash-burned eyes and my eggnog soaked liver.

Tune in tomorrow!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I blame it on the eggnog

I have a poem for you today. And before your roll your eyes and think this horror writer has gone all literary on you: it's a comedic tribute to Stephen King (written several years ago as an assignment for a group I belonged to), set to the rhythm of "T'was the Night Before Christmas." Enjoy!

'Twas the night before All Saints, and all through the house
Not a creature was slith’ring, not even a louse;
My library bookshelves were cobwebbed with care
In hopes that King’s novel soon would be there;

I crept up the stairs, my heart filled with dread,
Visions of zombies danced in my head;
I dived into bed, fixed the covers just right
To hide me from things that go bump in the night.

When outside the window arose such a clatter,
I peed in the bed and my teeth, they did chatter.
Away to the window I slunk in great fear,
I peeked through the curtains and froze like a deer.

The moon on the shroud of the cold bitter snow
Cast grisly shadows from the objects below,

When, what should appear to add to my woes,
But a coffin-shaped sleigh, and a murder of crows,

With a gruesome driver, so dreadful and fright’ning
I knew in a moment it must be the King.
More rapid than death his coursers they came,
And he chanted, and cursed, and invoked each by name;

"Now, Carrie! now, Thinner! now, Shining and It!
On, Cujo! on Creepshow! on, DeadZone and Mist!
From the depths of all fear! I’m the king of them all!
Now run away! run away! run away all!"

As crematorium smoke spirals into the sky,
Or the soul flees the body with a ‘whoosh’ and a sigh,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of books, and grim Stephen King too.

I broke out in cold sweat, on the roof I heard
The scrabble and cawing of each gruesome bird.
As I swallowed my fear, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Richard Bachman came with a frown.

He was dressed all in black, from his head to his foot,
His clothes mottled with feathers just as black as soot;
A bundle of books he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a grave robber op’ning his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled with mysterious light,
with dark circles underneath from writing all night.
The glasses, the dark hair, sprinkled with gray
Unmistakably him, I knew right away.

His Red Sox cap was all askew on his head,
He pointed to it: “The Babe’s curse at last dead.”
He cocked his head in deep deliberation
“There’s a story in that—a potential sensation!”

He smirked with black glee, a right gory old bard,
I shuddered at the sight and my heart pounded hard;

A wink of his eye and a spin of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had plenty to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
He filled all the bookshelves; then shouted, “Hey jerk!
It’s not meant to be Shakespeare; just a really fun read,
A journey through darkness to leave you weak-kneed.”

With a wink he was gone and back to his team,
And away they all flew like a horrible dream.
I heard evil laughter as he flew out of sight,
Sometimes dead is better. Now you have a good-fright

Friday, December 24, 2010


A mixed bag of links for you today. Some inspiration, some basic facts, and a kick in the pants.

I am a Penmonkey, no doubt about it:
The Writer's Prayer; the Penmonkey's Paean

I'm neurotic, you're neurotic; and it's okay:
When all that's left is writing

And some basic points:
Seven differences between published and unpublished authors

Don't forget to sign up! Ye deadline approachth:
Author Kelly L. Stone's 90-day writing challenge

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Have a Nice Day (for those who don't celebrate the holidays but still deserve good tidings)!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beware the Worm (or Wyrm, for ye olde scribes)!

The Mongolian Death Worm

It's name has it all: exotic location, death, repulsive noun. What better to strike fear into the hearts of travelers?



This would make a great creature for a book--but in a more threatening location, like New York City (Mongolian Death worms in the sewers, anyone?). I know SyFy did a movie already, but I don't know how good it was.

However, I believe this one is less "mystical creature" than "people spending too much time in the hot sun."

It actually reminds me of something that frightened me very much when I was younger: horsehair snakes.

My Kentucky kin used to share the story of how you could drop a horse hair into water and it would turn into a snake. They told me it was a myth, of course, but the snakes were real . . . and poisonous. One more reason for me to be scared of water! Now, of course, I know that horsehair snakes are really worms (a parasitic worm). Gross, but not scary. And perfectly harmless (but oh, you should have seen ten-year-old me run screaming out of the creek when a hair floated by)!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How does your garden grow? Quite malignantly, thank you!

Found this link today:
Are Poinsettias poisonous?

Interesting. I haven't had poinsettias in my home in years because I believed the poison myth.

But how is this weird news? It reminded me of a personal weird experience with plants (and this story is news to you, and thus, weird news--great segue way, huh?)

Being an outdoorsy type, I've been working for several years to make my backyard into a paradise. The first step was putting up a six-foot privacy fence (best money I ever spent). And little by little, I've been trying out different plants in the landscaping. Our winters are very, very harsh, so it's difficult to find plants that will last more than a year without intensive coddling (and I'm not the coddling type; so it's either grow or croak, I don't care).

I was having problems along one section of the fence. It's a shady spot, so it's hard to find things to grow there. I like plants that climb, (I have a hops vine along one sunny side), but I also like them to have flowers. I tried morning glories--nice, but didn't reseed themselves thoroughly enough. Then I tried Cyprus vine--epic fail; they never made it past an inch tall. Then I tried Clematis--they lasted one summer, in spite of supposedly being hardy enough for our winters. So I told my husband, "I guess next year maybe I'll try bittersweet. Or deadly nightshade." (I was joking about the nightshade . . . maybe).

The next year, as I was preparing the ground for planting, I noticed an odd little plant in the flower bed with tri-lobed, dagger-shaped leaves. Intrigued, I let it be. Sure enough, the little thing grew into a viney plant, with lovely purple and yellow flowers and beautiful berries that turned from emerald green, to sunshine orange, to deep maraschino cherry red.

And that plant? Bittersweet Nightshade. I kid you not.

The plant is a toxic, non-native weed and is supposed to range pretty much everywhere, but I've never seen it here before (and I spend a LOT of time out in the woods and along the rivers). And I've had flower beds in my yard for over ten years and never had the plant appear before. It is found some places in Minnesota, so it may have somehow made the long journey here. Surely no other gardener intentionally put the toxic plant into their garden? So some bird from far away just happened to overhear my decision to put bittersweet and nightshade in my garden (and being a bird, didn't understand I was talking about two different plants), and decided to oblige me by pooping a bittersweet nightshade seed into my flowerbed?

Yeah. There's some weird news for you.

And in case your curious, yes, I left the plant alone (live and let live), and it has grown to cover most of the eight-foot section of fence it sprouted by. It survives our harsh winters very well, which is exactly the kind of plant I need. And after all the effort the plant made to get here, who am I to argue with it?

If you'd like to see pictures of a bittersweet nightshade:
Minnesota Wildflowers

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Horror news? Great! Now I'm craving Cinna-bites!

New releases in books:

Locus Online

And . . . you know it's coming . . . another remake movie! This time, it's a remake of the Hellraiser franchise. I loved the first one. It was very avant-garde for its time, and I'm a big fan of monsters and demons, so it was exactly my kind of movie. Pinhead was right up there with Freddy Krueger as one of my favorite characters.

The second Hellraiser was okay, saved by the introduction of new Cenobites. But after that . . . they lost me. I probably watched the third one, but I don't remember it.

And they went on to do nine Hellraiser movies, total! Seriously? Talk about beating a dead horse! I can't imagine how they found enough material to make nine of them. And nowadays, I can't hear the word "Cenobites" without thinking of McDonald's cinna-bites, so that takes a little of the scare quality out of the whole thing.

But the remake has me intrigued. You never know. Maybe with some new blood, they can bring back the magic and thrill of that first Hellraiser movie. But it will probably be a long time before we find out. Like most of these movies, it's been an uphill battle: budget, scripts, creative discord, etc. But I'll be keeping an eye out for new news; this is one I might actually want to see.

Some links on the Hellraiser remake:

The "official announcement" on movieweb . . . from 2006!

Info from the Clive Barker page

Recent blurb from Shock Till You Drop

Monday, December 20, 2010

Time to Slay the White Whale

I'm feeling a little better about the project I'm planning to tackle in January.

It all started a few years ago. I belonged to a writing group that sent out daily prompts. In response to one of the prompts, I wrote a vignette. I liked the character, so I turned it into a short. I decided to send the short to a contest, and although it didn't win, the judges sent back a note saying, "If you ever turn this into a novel, we'd love to see it!" Needing no further encouragement, I turned it into a novel. I let it rest, then sat down to edit it. Halfway through, the inner critic stepped in.

"This is a fantasy novel. You're a horror writer. What do you know about fantasy? When's the last time you actually read a fantasy novel? I don't know why you're bothering to write this. Nobody's going to want a fantasy novel written by a horror writer."

The next thing you know, I was blocked. I didn't want to touch the novel. I didn't want to look at the novel. I didn't want to think about the novel. I came to whisper the title in the hushed tones usually reserved for words like "cancer" and "diarrhea." And then I became totally blocked and couldn't write anything else, likely from the guilt of abandoning the novel.

So that prompt that grew into a short that grew into a novel became my great white whale. Eventually, I started writing again. But I still didn't touch the novel.

That's all going to change next month. Next month, I'll begin revising and editing that novel again. To help keep my inner critic's mouth shut, I've been reading book after book in the fantasy genre, trying to see if there are important elements of the genre that I've left out of my novel. And guess what? There aren't.

My fears were unfounded. The fantasy genre spans a wide range of stories, from high fantasy (with dragons and elves and kingdoms) to what I call just plain old "imagining a different time," where the story could almost be a glance at history (think Clan of the Cave Bear). Some have a lot of "mysticism and myth," with lots of strange creatures, and some have very little.

My novel will fit in perfectly. It is another world, but most of the characters are decidedly human (some with magickal abilities). There are a few strange creatures and even some dragons. Not what they call, "high fantasy," but fantasy nonetheless.

So now I can tell my inner critic to shut the hell up. And by June (or the end of 2011 at the latest), I'll be done with revision and edits and ready to start searching for an agent for Macha Mong Ruadh.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Santa's Not The Only One Watching You

But I don't care if you're naughty or nice, I'm just trying to figure out your story.

There are a lot of drawbacks to being the friend/loved one of a writer: said writer is constantly popping in and out of bed, scribbling down story ideas; said writer is constantly disappearing mid-conversation because an idea popped into his/her head write in the middle of your discussion of the family budget (or in the middle of the DVD you've been waiting all week to watch); said writer is constantly talking to his/herself; constantly demanding alone time; constantly pushing the latest story on all friends and loved ones, with the dreaded question, "Tell me what you think of this" (a question almost as dreaded as, "Does this make my butt look big?").

But the writing habit I'm about to describe is usually the one people find most annoying. And I mean all people, not just the ones that have to deal with the writer on a daily basis.

The habit is people watching. It's one of the ways I (and a lot of other writers) come up with characters and stories. I watch people while hubby's filling the gas tank on the car, I watch the parents and students after school while I'm waiting to pick up my daughter, I watch people browsing for merchandise at Wal-mart. But I have three top picks for people watching.

My number three is any bar. A lot of drama goes on in a bar, and thanks to the free-flowing liquor, people lose their internal volume control, which makes eavesdropping a lot easier.

What about that guy the barmaid just called a cab for? It's noon. How is it that he's so drunk at such an early hour? He's dressed in a powder-blue Henley-style shirt and brand new, stylish jeans, the preferred outfit of the local college kids. Is he a slosh, or is he a hard-working blue collar guy that got off the night shift at 7 am (in spite of his clothes that say otherwise)? And what's the deal with him forgetting, three times, that he's already paid the bill? Is the barmaid going to take advantage of that? What's her story? How much does it suck to have to have drunk guys hitting on you at noon?

Of course, the big disadvantage to a bar is the patrons all tend to be of a single social group, depending on the bar. I know that McMenamy's is going to have an older, blue collar crowd, while The Rock is going to have a lot of college kids doing the Soulja Boy. Social groups tend to self-segregate by frequenting different watering holes.

I can fix that problem by going to the casino, my number two pick for people-watching. The casino has a bar in it, too, so you get some of the drunken drama. But the variety of people is much broader: people barely past eighteen, dressed up in formal wear for the first "grown up" night out; farmers, in from a hard day in the fields to kick up their heels and blow off a little steam; a regional biker group, having their annual "biker's night out"; hardcore grannies playing two machines at once, with one eye carefully trained on their oxygen tank to make sure no drunk stumbles by and knocks it over; tribal members (our casinos are Native American-run); college kids; divorcees trolling for love. You name it, and the cultural/social group is represented at the casino.

One night, a woman of about forty walked up to the back bar and ordered a pitcher of beer. She wore denim jeans, a t-shirt, and a black leather vest. Her hair was cut in a mullet. She filled her glass from the pitcher. Set the pitcher on the bar. She downed the glass in one continuous gulp. She looked at the floor and shook her head sadly. She refilled her cup and repeated the process, each time shaking her head in disbelief. Did she lose a fortune, and can't believe it happened so fast? Did she start taking some kind of medication that made her lose her taste for beer, and can't believe that she's lost something she loves? What's her story?

But my number one pick for people-watching/eavesdropping is any ladies room. Yeah, I know it sounds weird. But ladies have some of their most personal and intimate conversations in ladies rooms (I can't even begin to understand the psychology behind it). A lot of women will open up in a restroom and tell a perfect stranger things she wouldn't tell her best friend out on the casino floor. And if she's in a restroom with her best friend . . . then the juicy stories really start to fly! And where else can you be so close to eavesdrop than sitting in the stall? I've taken to carrying a small memo pad in my back pocket for just such occasions. Weird, yeah. But it's the best way to get at the core of human drama.

So now that I've made you totally paranoid (no, those feet that have been in the stall for an hour do NOT belong to someone with gastric distress), I'll give you some words of encouragement: don't worry. I live in a small town, probably very far away from you. Our paths will never cross . . . . probably . . . maybe. Don't worry, I won't use your real name.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Humor, mild or spicy. Take your pick!

Today's humor, some with a bit of a raw edge:

Haven't you always wanted to eat Darth Vader's face?
9 Star Wars Products That Will Help You Cook Up a Holiday Feast

So you don't get your elves mixed up. The cookie-making elves are boycotting this site due to being overlooked: Holiday Studies: A Comparison of Elves

And this site is hilarious. I'm going to warn you, it contains a lot of foul language and is not intended for anyone under 18 (so be forewarned). It's a satire site, a la The Onion, but with more foul language and no internal filter what-so-ever (you will be shocked; you'll probably laugh anyway, but you'll still be shocked). It has no religious affiliations: The Landover Baptist Church

And on the "So tasteless I can't believe it" side of things, on the way home tonight I passed by a local saloon and their light-board was announcing "Midget Wrestling Dec. 22nd." Sigh. You just know one of the wrestlers will be wearing an elf suit.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bucket List, schmuket list: DO IT NOW!

January is just around the corner. Isn't it time you lived your dream and started writing every day? Isn't it time you finally started working on that novel you've always thought about writing? Well get to it! You're not getting any younger, ya know!

To help you get on the right path to making your dream a reality, here are some links for getting into the habit of writing EVERY DAY!

750 Words: I haven't had a chance to fully play with this site, but it seems simple enough. It's an online program where you sign up and try to write 750 words per day (fiction, non-fiction, journaling--whatever words you want; I'm partial to onomatopoeia). What makes it cool is that you earn points on a scorecard and can win little animal badges. So if you're looking for something to get you into the habit of writing and you're a visual person, this one might be just what you're looking for.

Novel Writing World: The name on this one had me confused at first. It's not a novel writing community, it's a novel (pause) writing-community (as in "unique"). Lol. Once I got it figured out, I signed up anyway. Basically, it's a community to encourage journaling, and members can friend each other and post comments (Facebook just for journalers). It includes a self-guided course to help you get into the habit of journaling every day.

And I'm repeating these links again, because I think they're worth it:

Bibliographic Junkies: Get a daily prompt, write something, post it. Shenanigans and fun follow. A fun, casual way to get into the habit of writing every day.

Author Kelly L. Stone's 90-day writing challenge: Set a writing goal; do it every day for 90 days. Facebook bunch cheers you on (or whips you with a pool noodle, I'm not sure which; I haven't met everyone yet).

So get to it! Then you can finally cross "write my novel" off that well-worn New Year's Resolutions list! (FINALLY)!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Real Monsters From the Deep!

A few real monsters for you today!

Top Ten Weirdest Sea Creatures

My favorite is the blobfish. Every time my work gets rejected, I imagine the editor at the other end and see a blobfish.

My second favorite is the frilled shark, because it looks like the sh**weasels from Stephen King's Dreamcatcher movie.

Third is the viperfish, because it looks like something that H. R. Giger dreamed up.

Weird Creatures From the Deep

Love the Australian dragon fish and the zombie worm. You can never go wrong with something that has "zombie" in the name!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chamberpot, hippie pot, the world gone to pot . . . and what not.

Woman Shocked to Find Squirrel in Toilet

And I thought I ate some weird stuff. Or maybe she was trying a "green" version of a colon cleansing. Remember the old joke where the bear asks the bunny, "Does poop stick to your fur?" When the bunny says no, the bear grabs the bunny and rubs it vigorously across his bum.

See? Santa Did Get My Letter
Apparently Jessie's been a very good boy! Four hundred thousand dollars worth of good!

Artist Tortures Santa in Gruesome Christmas Ornaments
These are the artist's statement against commercialism, so please buy one. (LOL)

Student Googles Himself and Finds Out He's Accused of Murder
Okay, but did his efforts at Search Engine Optimization get him in the top three results? That's all that matters, you know. And if so, how did he do it (the SEO, not the murder)? Inquiring bloggers want to know.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Hollywood, no one can hear you scream: "When can I see the movie?"

There's been some buzz lately about the Alien prequel. I'm still trying to distinguish fact from fiction and figure out the only thing I want to know . . . the most important thing of all: WHEN CAN I WATCH IT?

I never go to the theater to see a movie. I figure, why bother? I can rent it, sit at home on my comfy couch, with my sweet dogs, drinking a beer and eating nachos. Until someone comes up with that kind of movie theater (or at least one where I can bring my dogs without having to sneak them in as seeing eye dogs), I watch at home. But this one might actually draw me out of my house and into the communal joy of the movie-theater experience.

I just hope it will be worth it.

It seemed like I waited forever for Alien vs. Predator. There was so much discussion about it and they even made an "Alien vs. Predator" game. And we waited, and waited, and waited for the movie. When the movie finally came out, I was so excited I was practically apoplectic. And I liked it (the movie; I didn't like being apoplectic). The Bishop thing confused me, though. So his company eventually makes the Bishop robot that we see with Ripley in movie #2; but why does it look like him? I mean, we are talking centuries pass before the Bishop droid is made. It would be like Microsoft making a Bill robot in 2179).

I didn't have to wait as long for the next movie, AVP Requiem. I wish I had. Maybe they would have had time to come up with a better script. It was SO bad. And boring. And shot too dark for me to even see what the hell was going on half the time. But they didn't just disappoint me, they made me mad. They had such a great premise: a Predator-Xenomorph cross. SQUEE! How delicious is that? But somehow they still managed to flub it up. Bad . . . bad . . . bad.

So I am cautiously optimistic about the prequel. It seems they have Ridley Scott back on board, so that's a good sign. And he seems to want to take it back to its "art of H.R. Giger" roots, which would be good, too (so much dark, freaky atmosphere in every scene). So we'll have to see how it all works out.

As for the script: I was only kidding about my impatience. Take your time, boys. Do this one right!

Some links, if you're curious:

Film: Ridley Scott's Alien Prequel Details Revealed

ReelzChannel: Recent Alien Prequel Rumors Debunked

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wake up, little Muse-y, Wake up!

Interesting post on his writing ritual:
Developing Your Writing Ritual

A writing ritual can help get you in the right frame of mind. It tells your brain, "All right. Time to sit down and get creative!"

I usually start my writing work at around 9 am. First, I hide myself away in my office. The next thing I do is turn on the heater/box fan (my writing room is always too hot in summer, too cold in winter). Then I turn on my writing music. Sometimes it's drum music from David & Steve Gordon, sometimes it's one of my CDs of thunderstorms. Sometimes I'll mix it up a little with other music, as long as it doesn't have lyrics--I'm notorious for caterwauling along with anything that has lyrics. It's embarrassing enough having hubby pop his head in the room, wondering who I'm talking to when I'm really editing my story by reading it aloud. I'd rather not have him walk in on me squalling out "Karma Chameleon."

Last, I light a scented candle (scent is the sense most strongly associated with memory). And then I sit down and write. Every hour or so, I'll take a break and check my email and some of my social media (my little treat for putting my butt in the chair). By 4 pm or so, all my creativity will be drained and I'll pack in my pencils for the day.

I've found that since I started doing this ritual, the writing starts easier. Before it, I'd often spend an hour or more piddling around, staring at the screen and wondering what to write (or re-reading the same sentence four times, if I was editing). Now, my ideas are flowing and ready to write almost as soon as I sit down (MOST of the time).

I guess it's the same as anything else . . . you have to warm up your brain. We all know people who say, "Don't even look at me until I've had my coffee" (or in my case, my Mt. Dew and an MSN jigsaw). The muse needs a wake up ritual, too!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Your Christmas mission: to explore strange new gifts . . .

Since the holidays are closing in, here's a gift guide:

Gift Ideas for the Ten Major Species of Science Fiction Fan

I know the Tron merchandise is going to sell like hotcakes. I attended a MacWorld party for Mac enthusiasts/programmers/companies (don't ask) in 1999, and the main theme room was a Tron theme . . . from the original movie . . . in 1982 . . . in other words, over half the people at the convention weren't even in kindergarten yet when the original came out.

As for what species of sci-fi fan I am, I am #4 (Star Trek; original and spin offs, except for the last one, Star Trek Enterprise with Scott Bakula; loved him in Quantum Leap, though), #6 (I heart zombies), #7 (vampires; but not Buffy/Twilight/True Blood), and a little #8 (Futurama only).

I can't speak for the gifts recommend for the other species, but the ones recommended in my categories are pretty good. Personally, I'll take anything Klingon. I already have several different styles of Klingon Bat'Leth swords and B'Etor's QIS (yes, I'm a geek. I admit it. And yes, I think Worf is totally hot).

And although I've never been a fan of the Cthulu mythos, I love the Cthulu ski mask. If they make it in pink, I'll take one: I love Dr. Zoidberg (Futurama)! I could SO deal with winter around here if I had a tentacled Zoidberg hat to keep my mug warm!

Hear that, Grammy? They don't make it in pink. Hint, hint, hint. I just hope you can knit fast enough for it to be here in time for Christmas!

(Postscript: My spell-check went NUTS over this post! I guess the Blogger dictionary wasn't made to handle sci-fi speak)!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Anyone for NaNoWriOnYoPhoMo?

Now we need to have "National Novel Writing On Your Phone Month?"

5 of the 10 bestselling novels in Japan in 2007 were written on mobile phones!


NY Times

Can you imagine? I can see me trying it on my hubby's phone. He doesn't have a keyboard phone, so if you want an "L" you have to hit the "5" key three times. I don't even know where the comma is on his phone.

So the next big medical crisis in Japan? Not SARS; Carpal thumb syndrome.

So do you think NaNoWriOnYoPhoMo will ever catch on in the U.S.?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Scribe, Take Up Thy Pen and Take Heed

The worst part of the writing process (for me, anyway) is revision and editing. To make things a little easier, I created a checklist to go through; a "Revision Bible," of sorts. It's the sort of thing I recommend all writers to have.

The first part of my Revision Bible is a checklist of common writer's mistakes. You can find these through Google searches, writing websites, Writer's Digest, etc. Here's a good example:

"Writerisms and Other Sins: A Writer's Shortcut to Stronger Writing."

Start making yourself a personal CliffsNotes® version of the tips and recommendations from these articles.

The second part of the Revision Bible gets personal. As you write more, you'll begin to notice there are certain words you misspell regularly, certain words you overuse, etc. Start collecting them. Part two of your Revision Bible should contain your personal writing foibles and quirks: your commonly misspelled words, your overused words, your too-oft repeated character mannerisms, etc. The second part of my Revision Bible contains things like my love of the word "that," the fact that my characters seem to shrug every three seconds, and my chronic misspelling of the word desperate (I even spelled it wrong when I first did this post).

This will, of course, be a dynamic document. You'll always find new things to add, whether it's tips from new articles or your own ever-changing quirks (you will eventually outgrow your current foibles, but don't worry . . . new foibles will step into their place. I guarantee it). But with your own personal Revision Bible in hand, you'll at least have a guide to make the revision process a little less overwhelming. And more effective!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Merman, Pop. Mer-MAN!

I have never been a fan of mermaid mythology.

Part of it is that I always wondered how they went to the bathroom. It just spoiled the magic for me. And then when I heard that scientists thought the mermaid myths came from sailors mistaking manatees for women . . . ugh! Either they all needed glasses or they had some really ugly wives/sisters at home as a point of reference. Mistaking a walrus for Ariel? Really?

Or maybe it's my dislike of water (I can't swim) or my aversion to girly things (no matter how the mermaid myths originated, they are now solidly "Mermaid Barbie").

But mermaids obviously have fans. Here's a site that has hundreds of mermaid references, including tons of mermaid art and references to mermaid in literature:
Mermaids on the web

And another mermaid info site:
The Legend of the Mermaid

Here's another, though I just don't know about mermaid myths from a country known for its love of cannabis (Jamaican mermaids).
Mermaids of the Caribbean

Maybe someday I'll try and write a mermaid story. But my mermaid will be evil and malevolent, of course.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It takes all kinds to make a world

My favorite weird news of the week.

Politician urges men to sex strike
Ha! Good luck with that. Their next headline: "NRM Party Wins by Biggest Landslide Ever!"

Man shoots boy in tree after asking if he's a pigeon
So that's where that big plop on my windshield came from!

Idaho White Supremacist Builds KKK Snowman
Only use the power of Frosty for good.
Around here, our offensive snowmen are done by drunken jokers who put Frosty's carrot nose in the wrong bodily location.

Millions of bees dead after invading home
So who the hell was living in this house? Damien? Sir, does your son often have black dogs and crows hanging around him?

Oh, and speaking of Damien . . . I saw another instance when the little bugger must have been around, just off camera, in a video where two crows and a black cat are working together to attack a white cat. Every time the white cat turns around to face the black cat, the crows attack him. Every time he turns around to chase off the crows, the black cat attacks him. It's actually pretty strange to watch. I'd include a link, but the videos have all been removed from YouTube due to a copyright infringement claim--or is it Damien covering his tracks, lol?

It's a weird, weird world!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sci-fi book releases

(Okay, you got me; I'm expanding "Frightly News" to include sci-fi and fantasy, too. But "Spec Fic News" doesn't have quite the same ring to it; actually, if you say it fast, it sounds like you're choking on something: "Spek Phhhik Newzzz." Cool).

Sci-fi book releases:

Also in the news:

Frank Darabont Fires Walking Dead Writing Staff

"Let's see. I just created an amazingly successful hit series that has created huge buzz. What should I do next? Oh, I know! I'll fire everyone and start from scratch!"

I don't know. He probably knows what he's doing, but it seems like a pretty boneheaded move to me. I guess we'll have to wait until next season to see how this affects the series.

Wait! Do you think this has anything to do with those plot holes? LOL!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oh yeah! Now I remember . . . I HATE Business Mgmt

I'm planning ahead (gasp!) and trying to make sure I've got everything in order for the year ahead. I'm getting my paperwork ready for keeping tax records and working on the business plan for my writing career.

Although I've done taxes before -- I was an accounting/business mgmt/computer programmer in my former life --- I've never actually done a business plan. Not even when I ran a little educational products company for a while. So I was diving into uncharted waters. I've seen them, I've studied them. But I've never written one.

The first step was to download the S.C.O.R.E template. Good idea. Too bad so much on the template doesn't really apply:

Describe in depth your products or services (technical specifications, drawings, photos, sales brochures, and other bulky items belong in Appendices).
What factors will give you competitive advantages or disadvantages? Examples include level of quality or unique or proprietary features.
What are the pricing, fee, or leasing structures of your products or services?

Um . . . what?

I could cut the items out, of course, leaving whatever information does pertain to my writing. But I don't want my business plan to end up as a mere paragraph:

"I'm going to write stuff. And pimp it on Facebook."

I know you're probably thinking, why even write a business plan? The first time I started writing "professionally," I didn't bother. Maybe that's why there has to be a "second time" I'm starting to write professionally!

But seriously . . . there are four reasons I want to write a business plan:

1) Direction. When I have one of those "What the hell am I doing?" or "What made me think I could do this?" moments, I have a document that puts me back on track and acts as my guiding light. What am I doing? I'm doing this this year. What was I thinking? Here's what I was thinking, and why this is going to work.

2) Professionalism. One of the biggest problems/complaints that writers have is how their "business" is treated, by others and themselves. A business plan helps remind me that, yes, I'm running a business, and if I want to make some money, I'm going to have to TREAT it like a business. Act like a professional, be a professional. It also lets other know this isn't some little whim where I'm dabbling in "someday." I have a plan and I'm not afraid to use it!

3) Dread fear of the IRS. Let's face it, no one is a fan. And the IRS rules for business versus hobby are dicey. If your activity is classified as a business, you count income and deduct expenses. If your business is deemed a hobby, you still have to count income, but you can't deduct expenses! One of the "yardsticks" the IRS uses to determine if your business is a hobby or a real business is if you "conduct business like a business." Well, ain't that clear as mud! So to err on the side of caution, I'm keeping highly-detailed business records and making sure that I operate my business LIKE a business in every way possible. This isn't a hobby and I want my deductions.

4)The New World Order of Publishing. Although I haven't looked for an agent or a publisher for my novel yet, I've been hearing that a lot of them are starting to ask writers if they have a marketing plan and web presence BEFORE they'll consider publishing/representing a novel. They want to know if you have a website, if you have a Facebook page, do you have followers . . . Basically, they're asking for the "Marketing" section of your business plan. When the day comes that I'm ready to hand over my novel to an agent, I'm going to be ready for all those questions (instead of scrambling at the last minute).

So I'm going to keep working away on it, creating a system for my business records and building a business plan so I'm ready for the new year. I hate it, but I admit it's a necessary evil.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Plot holes are scary, too

More about AMC's The Walking Dead:

Blastr: 12 Walking Dead Plot Holes That Bug Us

Some of their plot holes have hardly registered for me. For example, the car/gas thing. I know I wouldn't want to take a car that had a dead body in it, even AFTER removing the dead body. Ever seen CSI? Bodies really do "goo" like that, and the stink gets into everything and you can't get it out. Think mothballs get into fabric and the smell just won't come out? Try a rotting body. Add in the problem of traffic jams, accidents, etc., and I can see where just grabbing another car might not be feasible. But back and forth to camp, it should be doable. The young guy made it back to the camp with the sports car, so the road from Atlanta to the camp must be passable. And they definitely should have grabbed a car when they rushed back to camp after the rescue mission. You don't walk back to your camp when you think the camp is in imminent danger.

As for the "where are the guns" plot hole, that is a big one for me. I'm not sure how things are in Georgia and Atlanta specifically, but around here you'd be hard pressed to find a house without a gun. I bet at least one third of households have at least one gun here. Guns should be laying around everywhere! And don't they have a Cabela's/Gander Mountain, etc., anywhere around there, where they can stock up on ammo?

Running out of food doesn't make sense either. Sure, maybe they rushed out of Atlanta and just camped on the hill, so they haven't went out looking for other small towns to raid. But there should be plenty of houses, even outside of Atlanta, where they can get their hands on canned goods and a can opener. Though for full disclosure: I had to open a can of beans a few months ago using a (gasp!) MANUAL can opener, and I couldn't do it. I'd definitely be in trouble if their was a zombie apocalypse. Maybe their group is the same way and nobody knows how to use a manual can opener.

But the one plot point I have the hardest time with is the "Why doesn't Rick ask any questions?" One of the rules I've heard most often is writing is that your hero has to be a hero. He doesn't have to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he has to act, not spend time pondering the meaning of life. He doesn't ask questions, he takes action. I wonder if the Walking Dead folks took that a little too much to heart. Rick is such a hero, he doesn't have time to worry about the "why's" of the situation or anything namby-pamby like that. He's just going to accept things as they are and worry about taking action. All about the "What we're going to do" and no time for the "Why."

As for the "Joining the holdouts in Atlanta," it isn't a plot hole to me. If those crazy people wanted to stay hunkered down in a city full of the undead, more power to them. But I'd want to be as far away as possible. I wouldn't care if they had a freakin' garrison . . . I'm not going to want to be that neighborly with the undead. So I can see why the main group wouldn't want to join the holdouts.

And the "All day to the CDC" plot hole isn't actually a plot hole--it's a bit of bad writing, lol. On their way to the CDC, they broke down and needed more duct tape. One of the characters said something about walking ahead to a gas station (or town, or something) and getting more. So they lost time there, but the scene was never played out for us. They skipped shooting those scenes. Then they dropped the bitten guy by the tree (Jim? I think) and everyone said their goodbyes. The scene played out briefly in real time, but it would have taken quite a bit of time in their "world." So they wasted most of the day before they even got to the CDC. The problem here is that the writer(s) didn't mark the passage of time definitively enough, so it was too subtle.

And then there's the issue of the hat and uniform. I like the hat, too. Captain Jack Sparrow has a thing about his hat, so Rick is in good company. I also like the fact that he insists on wearing his uniform; it differentiates him from his partner (who somehow also managed to survive--another plot hole? Where is the rest of the police force? The only two who survived just happened to have been partners pre-apocalypse?) It also says a lot about the type of guy he is (he's clinging to the remnants of his former life and trying to latch onto whatever "normal-ness" he can find; he's attempting to bring normalcy back through the icons of authority from their previous life).

The biggest problem I've had with the series so far has been none of the above: my biggest problem was the switch to the point of view of the guy in the CDC. I had come to feel we were seeing the story through Rick's eyes. Yes, I know that we've "seen" stuff he can't, like when we got to see what was going on at camp before Rick joined them, and we sometimes get to see what's going on at camp when he's not there. But somehow, those situations didn't interrupt the continuity of the story. But when they jumped to the scene of the guy working in the CDC and we followed him around for a little while, it jolted me out of the story. I think they would have been better off if they had skipped all that and introduced us to him when Rick met him. All I got from following the CDC guy around was, "Oh. Look. I bet the government's behind this, too" and "Look. He's crazy as a bedbug." Not worth jolting me out of the story.

So far, none of these have been enough to sour me on the series. I'll be watching the final episode and anxiously awaiting next season.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Heed the words of the robo-bears . . .

This is a funny little video illustrating the unreasonable expectations of some writers. What amazes me the most is that there are actually writers that have this kind of attitude--although I think they are (fortunately) few and far between. Most of the writers I know are the exact opposite and so insecure about their writing abilities that the very thought of submitting a piece to a publisher makes them break into a cold sweat.

Of course, there was a post on a group that I belonged to the other day . . . the poster said, "I wrote my 50K for NaNo. Now I need you guys to tell me where to sell it." Um. What about revision? Editing? Polishing? Market Research . . . etc. But I think the post was more a result of lack of knowledge and lack of understanding of how publishing works, and not an author with delusions of grandeur.

But the video is funny, anyway. Check it out here:
So You Want to Write a Novel?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Get Rid of Your Guilt-Monkey and Write!

Today's links are all about getting in the habit of writing.

The first is a group I've belonged to for years! I'm really excited about it re-launching:
Bibliographic Junkies

Every day (or so), a prompt is posted. You write something based on the prompt and post it to the group. People comment on it, and you comment on the postings of others. It is NOT a formal critique group. It's all very casual, very relaxed. This isn't the place to post chapters of your magnum opus. It's just a great place to get into the habit of writing on a regular basis in a fun and creative environment, with lots of wacky folks (like me).

Today's second link is a 90-day challenge to get you in the habit of writing every day:
Author Kelly L. Stone's 90-Day Writing Challenge

Set a reasonable goal for yourself--500 words a day, 1000 words a day; whatever works best for you--and do it every day for 90 days. I like this idea, and I think of it this way: if you can meet that goal every day for ninety days, you should be able to make it every day, forever, right? Minus the occasional sick day and much-needed vacation (hey! I'm not a slave driver, you know), of course.

Check them out and sign up! I'll see you there!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Beware the Wampus Cat?

I had never heard of this particular legend before, though I've heard many others like it--there must be hundreds of legends about beasts that are part man, part some-kind-of-beast (from Bigfoot, the man ape, to mermaids). What intrigued me about this legend was my own experience with the Bigfoot legends from that region (or more specifically, from the neighboring state of Kentucky).

I know several people that claim to have had run-ins with a Sasquatch-like creature in Kentucky. The most intriguing thing about the Kentucky tales is that the Sasquatch-like creature is often described as having golden or light-cinnamon colored fur (unlike most Sasquatch tales, where the creature has black or dark brown fur).

Interesting! Maybe the Wampus Cat vacations in Kentucky?

You can read more about the Wampus Cat here:

American Folklore

Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Get in touch with your inner marmot

First, a leftover from a few days ago: Another article I came across about "flying" snakes.

And today's link is about musical scores in horror movies.

We all know a good score can really add a lot to a movie. One of my favorite scores is the extra-creepy score for John Carpenter's The Thing. Even hearing the score without the visuals provided by the movie causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up.

But who knew there was a scientific basis behind it? Who knew that the right music might just tap into the primal part of our brain that still remembers what it was like being a tasty caveman in a world of real monsters looking for a snack?

You can read the article here:
Scary Movie Scores Mimic Nature's Alarms