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Monday, January 31, 2011

Pondering Throughlines

A link to this interesting post landed in my mailbox this week:

The Pink and Blue Diaries: What’s Gender Got to Do with It?

I recommend reading it just for the exploration of gender issues. In the comments section, one poster explained that she tried to raise her children gender-neutral (gave the boy dolls and the girl toy cars), and the kids still followed gender stereotypes. Fascinating stuff.

But the main point of the post is throughlines: those themes and motifs that pop up repeatedly in our writing.

I don't usually worry about theme. I'm not trying to change the world with my writing, I just want to write stuff that's entertaining to read. But deeper meanings do creep in. For example, one of my first stories was about someone intensely focused on climbing the corporate ladder. In the end, it killed her (horrifically, of course). Moral of the story: too much ambition isn't a bad thing, lol.

After I read this article, I examined my work for recurring themes and motifs. One that jumped out right away was in my comedy pieces: the ridiculousness of the human condition (much ado about nothing; that's the real story of our lives). My humor pieces mock the day-to-day dramas, the pointless stuff we worry about, the idiotic things that beat us down, the wasteful things we get caught up in or obsessed with. Usually those throughlines are portrayed by a character from horror (a vampire having a mid-life crisis, a deity spilling his slushie on the machinery of the universe, things like that). Even though these protagonists are supernatural, they are also the "everyman" (or maybe that's part of it: even someone SUPER-natural falls victim to the natural whims and follies of human life).

A common theme that runs through many of my horror stories is "no matter how much we try to maintain control or plan for every contingency, there are always things beyond our control." That's a horror staple.

Common motifs in my work are water (I can't swim, so I'm afraid of water), caves (I love cave exploring), and unknown threats (creatures from outer space and from unexplored areas like polar ice or deep jungles).

Common motifs in King's works include crows, corn fields, and small towns.

What are some common throughlines and motifs in your work?


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day off

Taking the day off today, trying to get caught up on all the things that have been neglected over this last crazy week. See you on Monday!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

If you don't LOL, maybe you'll at least CQ (Chuckle Quietly)

Discover Which Apocalyptic Nightmare is Right For You
Apparently I've been preparing for the wrong apocalypse all these years. Instead of zombies, my ideal apocalypse is a "barren wasteland riddled with marauders who drive Jeeps and mopeds."

60 Signs You're Addicted to Social Media & Twitter
And my kids thought it was bad when I said "OMG" in real-life conversation.
(the bad thing about this link is that they decided to use grey text on a black background. It's easier to read if you highlight it first).

100 Things To Do in an Elevator
I rarely get a chance to ride in an elevator (few buildings around here have more than one floor). But I intend to do every single thing on this list before I die.

The 46 Stages of Twitter Usage
Yep. Pretty accurate.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Old School: Stalker; New School: Target Market

One of the biggest changes to marketing over the last few year has been the rise of social media. Experts have decided that it's critical for businesses--including writers--to be involved in social media and blogging in order to market their products (books) and get their name "out there" via a strong web presence. Using social media, you can tap directly into your target market. And you have to start early--even before your book is published. You want people craving your book before it even hits the shelves--it works for every "i" product (i-pod, i-pad), right?

So today, some links to help other writers out with social media.

12 Places Authors Should Look to Develop a Strong Web Presence

How to Use Social Media to Bum Out Your Customers

12-part series on social media (this series is designed for vet practices, but a lot of the same rules & tips apply; if you're a writer writing about veterinary issues, double bonus!)

Should You Follow Back?

10 Ways to Increase Your Twitter Followers

6 Social Media Pain Points

A big caveat about social media: Don't overdue it. Trying to do unique blog posts (or status updates) on twenty different sites is damn near impossible. You're supposed to be writing, not spending all your time on the Internet. I mainly focus on Twitter and this blog, and then have other apps (like Hootsuite and Networked Blogs) feed my blog and my Twitter to the many other social media sites (like Facebook, MySpace, GoogleBuzz, etc.). This means I update two sites and the apps feed the rest. It makes me look like I'm everywhere while still leaving me time for writing. When I have a little extra time, I pop over to some of the other sites (like Facebook) and do a personal update. But writing always comes first.

Do you have any sites that helped you learn social media? Feel free to share in the comments section!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Jersey Devil

No, I'm not talking about Snooki.

Growing up, I heard quite a bit about the Jersey Devil. Now, not so much. But I always thought it was an interesting legend (I actually prefer it to Bigfoot).

I'd always heard the legend as starting out with Mrs. Leeds saying that she wished her next child was the devil. What I could never figure out was why the hell someone would say that. If you don't want more kids, you might say, "I hope it's born dead," or something equally atrocious, but I could never understand the whole, "I hope it's a devil" thing (and yes, my one problem with a legend about a human-born supernatural creature terrorizing the Jersey Pine Barrens is something it's momma said, lol; like there aren't 100 other things to pick at about it).

A few links for more info:

The Jersey Devil at theshadowlands.net

The Devil Hunters

Weird N.J.
(Just in case YOU want to take a field trip to the Jersey Devil's stomping grounds)


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Frosty's neutered, a fox watches too much UFC, and rabbits do math

Somebody's got too much time on their hands. And how much laundry do you have to do to collect this much lint?
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41068119/ns/us_news-weird_news/

Wow. Those Russian foxes must be really tough; scuffle with the hunter over his gun?
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41061364/ns/world_news-weird_news/

And an update on Frosty. Poor guy's been neutered. In the movie, Santa says, "Now you go home and write 'I am very sorry for what I did to Frosty' a hundred zillion times." Make that a hundred ga-zillion times for neutering him!
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41061003/ns/us_news-weird_news/

And they only bought two at the pet store . . .
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41061173/ns/us_news-weird_news/

You know the dog said, "If I hear, 'it's a good thing' just one more time . . ."
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/41075555#41075555

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's All About the Zombies

Today's news: AMC's The Walking Dead

Even if it turns out to be not true, it's a great rumor. Love pondering the possibilities (a drunken, philandering zombie? Thanks to his role on Two and a Half Men, he's already got the stagger down).
Charlie Sheen Going Undead for The Walking Dead

If it works for Alice, why not Rick?
Walking Dead Videogame?

More rumors (keeping my fingers crossed on; love to see it back sooner).
AMC's The Walking Dead to Return in July

Last but not least, a
Q&A with Andrew Rothenberg (Jim)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting Assertive With Kronos

This has been one of those weeks where "time to write" has been a real challenge.

Part one of the problem is "writer's dejection." I've been fighting off feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that's going to be required to get the novel in shape. But I can handle it: one bite at a time; concentrate on this problem, get it fixed, then move on to the next. But it's hard. There are moments when I want to throw my hands in the air and surrender. But I'm not.

Then there's the "bummer factor" (more writer's dejection). Since this project is taking longer, it pushes my other projects (several short stories in various stages of writing and editing). Making me feel more "behind" and overwhelmed. But I just keep repeating to myself: so what? Those projects aren't going anywhere. They'll be patiently waiting for me when I get done with this one.

And then add into that:

Sewing alterations on my daughter's first chef coat (I want to do this for her because she's so excited about it; she feels like a real chef now--and as writers, I think we can all relate on how feeling "real" at your career is very important);

My mother has cancer again, and we've been going through tons of appointments and waiting for phone calls (status updates) for her appointments out-of-town;

Being there for a friend whose mother has also been diagnosed with lung cancer, and sharing my mother's experiences with him;

And the usual day-to-day stuff . . . amongst it all, we still have to eat, go to school, wear clean clothes, etc.

And here's the thing: it's always going to be this way. Life is always going to get in the way of writing, no matter what. Life is never going to hand you a year/month/week with a built-in writing block. You're going to have to yank that block of time off the calendar for yourself.

That's the biggest difference between my writing life now and my writing life a few years ago (when I gave up for a while). I now make writing a priority and take it when I can get it. Sometimes that means that I'm staying up late and writing at 10 or 11 p.m. (when my optimal writing time is 9 am to noon). And occasionally, VERY occasionally, there's nothing I can do and the day wins and I don't get to write at all. But those times are rare. Most of the time, I write every day--because I don't wait for time to write, I make the time to write.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Wanna be a Tweeting Hermit

Before I dived back into writing full-time, I wasn’t involved with any social media. I had a blog that I posted on far too sporadically, usually only when someone or something pissed me off. I didn’t tweet, I wasn’t on Facebook, I didn't do MySpace. I belonged to a few Yahoo groups and that was about it.

But I noticed a trend during the Muse Online Writer's Conference: there were several classes on social media and author platforms. The prior year, there had been only a class or two on author websites and nothing on social media or platforms. Being the highly-deductive person I am, lol, I knew something was going on. I signed up.

Although I was skeptical about the value of social media to author promotion, some of it did make sense. I've heard that publisher's don't have the marketing budget for a lot of author promotion and that authors are expected to do more (if not most) of their own marketing.

And the way marketing via social media works looked good, too: not that awful hard sale I hate so much, but a simple matter of getting my name out there, letting people get to know me, and mentioning the book regularly without cramming it down their throats. I hate being on the receiving end of heavy-handed sales tactics almost as much as I hate doing heavy-handed sales tactics.

At best, even if it worked for marketing, I assumed I'd hate it. It would be some chore to be dreaded on my list (like revision). I'm not much of a socializer. I don't have a posse of friends. I have a few close friends and a lot of acquaintances that I see on a chance basis. My idea of spending quality time with my close friends usually involves going out to a bar and having a few drinks. I don't do dinner parties, I don't do "let's go to the movies" or "let's have a block party/barbecue." I have been considering starting a poker night with some of my friends, but I hardly think that would qualify me as a "social butterfly."

In other words, people who know me best figured I was going to be one of those hermit writers who would (knock on wood) have a successful book and then retire to some cabin in an out-of-the-way place and continue writing hidden away from the world.
Not so.

I actually like social media. Especially Twitter--particularly ironic because I thought it would be the one I'd like the least. "You mean it's NOT all about what Ashton Kutcher had for breakfast?" Who knew!

However, there has been a huge learning curve. Some of it has been technical ("What the hell is a hashtag?"), some of it has been social standards for the new media (Miss Manners could write columns on the politeness rules of social media, especially Twitter), and some of it has just been dealing with the inevitable . . . uh, quirks and eccentricities . . . of people.

For example, a writer's group I belonged to decided that we should all post our Twitter IDs so we can follow each other. Awesome idea. However, one person who posted their ID on that "hey, follow me" list has very specific rules on who they will follow back. So it's a "follow me, please; but I'll only follow you if you meet my very specific criteria . . . but still, follow me."

Then, of course, there's the spam. I tweeted about my woes over my furnace breaking down and suddenly I had several followers that were heating companies. I tweeted about looking forward to date night and suddenly I had a bunch of . . . um . . . adult recreation companies following me.

And then there are just the plain old unusual folks. I had one follower who tweeted every two minutes about deer hunting. That's okay with me, because I love deer hunting. But the tweet at 7 pm would be about "I'm deer hunting in Alabama;" the 7:05 tweet would be "I'm deer hunting in Jersey." So I began to wonder if maybe I was missing something. It wouldn't be the first time I've been naive and misunderstood; for a long time, I thought a Dirty Sanchez was a bar-drink (thank god I never walked into a bar and ordered one). Maybe this Twitter person wasn't hunting the same kind of deer that I do.

Although I still have a lot to learn, I'm having a lot of fun with social media. If you are a writer and you haven't tried it yet, I recommend it.

Now excuse me while I get to work finding a reclusive cabin in the woods with high-speed Internet access.

Brenda on Twitter

Brenda on Facebook

Saturday, January 22, 2011

They shouldn't let me play with the Internet

Lots of random stuff this week. I shouldn't be allowed to surf aimlessly because I end up at places like these.

How to Make Your Shopping Cart Suck Less
Take heed, webmasters! My biggest complaint is that "Captcha" junk. I'm not as young as I used to be and I've spent way too much of my life squinting in front of a computer screen (and staying up late watching Star Trek movies in the dark). I'm almost ready for one of those phones with buttons as big as playing cards, so don't make stuff hard for me to read!

If You Do This in an Email, I Hate You
Ugh. We've all been here, too. I get so many of the decorated emails, and I can tell you that the three favorite things to decorate email with are Tinkerbell, kittens, and those babies that are dressed up like flowers. If I ever make a horror movie, it's going to be about murderous fang-toothed babies dressed up like flowers.

SlushPile Hell
One for the writers. I would make a terrible editor/agent . . . all my replies to letters like these would start out, "Dear Num-nutz . . . "

Ask the Warlord
Today he offers counseling for Dungeons and Dragons couples.

2-Minute Laugh Montage
I had to include this one; I can never get enough of Bruce Campbell (Ash).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Helpful Links for the Revision Process

This is a great series on pitching your book. The series runs the entire month, with a new post every day.

Pitch University


I've been studying the hero's journey story structure while revising my fantasy novel. Here's a great series of blog posts about the hero's journey.

Terrell Mims's Blog: The Hero's Journey


And here's one I always have problems with: showing versus telling.

Wordplay Most Common Mistakes Series: Are Your Verbs Showing or Telling?


And, last but not least, don't forget to revise and polish your characters during the revision process (my characters tend to all sound the same, and I have to make their dialogue sound different during the revision process).

Plot to Punctuation: Don't Forget to Revise Your Characters too

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Manny & Diego, Coming Soon to a Zoo Near You?

I couldn't believe it when I stumbled across this link:

Mammoth Could be Reborn in Four Years

Um . . . Jurassic Park, anyone?

How many horror/scifi movies have we seen where good intentions go wrong when scientists mess with the natural order of things? It's such a staple it's cliche.

And it has a strong base in reality. Cats were encouraged in Australia to control the rabbit and rodent population and they ended up taking over the damn countryside. Wolves are "saved from the brink of extinction" and reintroduced into their old habitats only to take over and soon become a nuisance predator killing farm animals and threatening household pets. Or how about one of the most infamous bad ideas ever: the introduction of kudzu as a plant for erosion control? Now that was a good idea!

And now we're going to start cloning massive prehistoric creatures? I can't see any way that could go wrong <sarcasm>.

So what do you think? Do you hope to see a mammoth in a zoo in the near future, or do you think they should leave it alone (from one of King's novels: "Sometimes dead is better")?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

That's NOT Manna From Heaven

This guy's real name must be "Unlucky Lou." Reminds me of the episode of "Family Guy" where Peter tries to come up with a fake name while in rehab (and he sees a pea on a plate and a tear roll down someone's face, then a Gryphon files in through the window; his fake name: Pea-tear Gryphon).
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40968935/ns/us_news-weird_news/

The most disturbing part of this story is that someone decided to taste the meat.
"Look, Bubba. Free meat from the sky!"
"Let's eat, Earl!"
http://fieldnotes.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/01/07/5784265-you-think-birds-falling-from-the-sky-is-weird

New twist on flying while impaired.
http://www.earthweek.com/2011/ew110114/ew110114f.html

Um. Maybe the Mayans weren't wrong about 2012 after all?
http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/01/14/5841192-scientific-shifts-go-beyond-the-zodiac

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

All aliens, please proceed to level one . . .

And bite these movie-makers on the butt.

All news related to the upcoming Alien prequel has to be taken with a grain of salt, because every time news breaks, the folks associated with the movie are quick to come out and refute it. So you can't believe everything you hear. But here's the latest news, true or not . . . and like it or not.

Will Charlize Theron Kick Butt in Ridley Scott's Prequel?

I hope not. Don't get me wrong, I like Charlize Theron. I just can't see her in the gritty, hard-as-nails world of Alien.

And then of course, there's the news that it's not really going to be a prequel after all, but a mostly-new movie:

Ridley Scott's 'Alien' Prequel Morphs into Prometheus

Ridley Scott Using Alien DNA for Prometheus Science Fiction Movie

I am NOT happy. I was really hoping to see the prequel and learn more about the big space jockey from the first movie. I thought I might get to learn more about the xenomorphs and where they came from. I thought I was going to be getting another chapter of my beloved Alien series. Now I don't know what I'm going to get. I don't want unique, large, and provocative; I want to see more Xenomorphs dripping acid blood and poking at people w/ their second set of teeth. I want more face-huggers jumping out of dark corners and wrapping their segmented tails around throats.

Why, oh why, can't we just have that? Why must we have "epic?" Every movie doesn't have to be Avatar, thank you very much.

Ok. Rant over. Maybe I'll get lucky and someone will come out and brand this latest news as mere rumor (fingers crossed).

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Built My Novel-House on Sand

Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but it's worse than I thought.

After my first read-thru of my novel, I realized I'm in a lot of trouble. My heroine's goals aren't clear, the characters don't always sound like themselves, and there's a lot of "fluff" in the story. I didn't write this as part of Nano, so I don't know why I would have been padding word count--must have just been rambling, unsure where to take the story next or what was important to the story. Lesson learned: start plotting more and stop being a "pantser"-- flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants just doesn't work for me.

But there is a bigger problem to the novel. I knew there was something majorly, majorly wrong with the story. But I couldn't put my finger on it.

So I grabbed out one of my favorite references: Story Structure Architect (a book I highly recommend, by the way). I took a look at the structure sheet, wrote in my plot points for things like "turning point 1" and "reversal" . . . and right away, a major problem jumped out at me.

With the way I've set up my story and defined my plot points, Act I ends on page 154 (of a 300 page manuscript). That means Act I takes up fifty-percent of my story. That means half my story "happens" before anything REALLY happens. Hm. That just might be a problem. Obviously, I've padded Act I with too much junk. I've added too much "watching my characters play" because, as their novel-mommy, I think they are the bees knees and want to show everyone how smart and wonderful they are and want to make everyone come to their violin recital and watch boring, three-hour slide shows about them (and I'm not showing my age here; I mean powerpoint slide shows, not 1970's-style slide shows. Really. Don't look at me like that).

Of course, Act I being 25% of your story is not a hard and fast rule (like the pirate's code: really more like guidelines). But keeping your novel (at least) close to these guidelines does generally make for a better story (and when you have 2X as much as the guideline, it definitely signifies a problem). As a side note, most structure books will talk about having two major turning points and many smaller turning points; I have three major turning points in my novel, and that's just perfect for my novel.

So this revision/edit is going to take longer than I thought. I will not make my goal of having this thing polished by June. But I'm going to keep at it. I love the characters, and I think others will too (no, I'm not being a novel-mommy now; I think the characters and story will interest readers). I'm just going to have to come at the whole thing with a chainsaw instead of with a hand-saw.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Psst! Wanna Buy A Bridge?

Although I know a few writers that write for their own enjoyment only, most of the writers I know want to be published. Sometimes it happens quick, and sometimes it seems to take forever. Sometimes it takes so long that becoming published becomes this "white whale," this end-all-be-all-divine-light-will-be-shining-down-from-the-heavens-chorus-of-angels moment that they'll give their left nut for (or boob, as the case may be).

There are a lot of people out there just itching to take advantage of that--but they don't want your body parts, they want  your cash. And because some writers are so desperate to see the dream fulfilled, they fall prey.

And here's a new contest that raises lots of red flags. You can read Suricattus's breakdown of the problematic clauses here:
http://suricattus.livejournal.com/1342214.html

She does a great job of shining a light on the problems.

But clause #13 might have even deeper implications. They own all submissions, in perpetuity . . . OWN them (and without having to pay you for them). I'm not 100% sure on the legality of it, but it really sounds like they could take all the best submissions, put THEIR name on them, and resubmit them to paying markets and collect more cash. Or maybe they can't go that far--perhaps copyright would still apply, and they'd have to keep your name on them; but they could still sub them other places and not have to share the cash with you.

So you send them big bucks, they own all submissions, and they don't even have to pay any money out. Wow. Sounds like a good deal (for them).

It reminds me of another vanity publisher that's out there. Most writers already know to stay away from it, but my local paper did a spotlight feature on a local author who had published through the vanity publisher. The article was all about how terrific it was to finally be published and how self-validating it was, and glossed over the fact that the author had spent $25K on books she now had to sell all on her own. The article mentioned the vanity publisher's name at least half-a-dozen times (nothing like encouraging other writers to sign up to be taken advantage of). I wish the local paper had done their homework before they wrote an article portraying the publisher in such a golden light!

So watch your back, fellow scribe, and read the fine print carefully.

UPDATE: I drafted this post on Friday night. Since then, the contest company has posted a response and "clarification" on the Absolute Write forum:
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=201621

AND, Agent Janet Reid has posted a warning about it:
http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2011/01/dont-enter-this-contest.html

Saturday, January 15, 2011

We Heart Jerks?

Great article on the newest trend in television (in literary terms, the anti-hero).

http://www.cracked.com/article_18960_5-things-tv-writers-apparently-believe-about-smart-people.html

The really funny part about this list is that I'm a big fan of "House" . . . now. I wasn't always. I have . . . um . . . a tendency toward jerk-i-ness at times (okay; maybe a lot of the time). When "House" first came out, my hubby was an instant fan. But I refused to watch the show because when Dr. House made a snarky comment about someone, hubby thought it was hilarious; when I made snarky comments about someone, I was being a negative b*tch. So I refused to watch "House" on the principal of "how come he gets to do it and I don't?" Fortunately, House eventually won me over and now I'm a big fan.

I still don't get to be a jerk, though. ;)

An interesting footnote, too: I'm less a fan of "House" since they've tried to make him nicer and more human. Not everybody needs fixing (thank-you-very-much)!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Conquer Blank-page-aphobia

One of the biggest problems I used to have with writing was staring at the blank page. Sit me down in front of a blank page or a blank screen, and my mind would soon be blank, too. Writer's block!

I remedied it by never sitting down to a blank page again. No, I didn't give up writing (obviously). Instead, I started collecting prompts. Now I start my writing day by writing to a prompt. It serves as a great warm-up, and then I can move on to whatever writing projects I'm working on.

And don't think of prompts as just practice. They are a great warm-up, but they can also turn into stories. I keep a file of all my prompt-responses, and I've turned quite a few of them into stories (including the novel I'm currently working on--it started from a simple, one-line prompt).

If staring at a blank page causes you to freeze up, trying a prompt from one of these sites:

Toasted Cheese Prompt Calendar

Writer's Digest Blog: Promptly

Writer's Digest Writing Prompts

Writing.com Daily Flash Fiction Challenge

WritingPrompt.com on Twitter

Writing.com The Writer's Cramp (Daily Writing Prompt & Challenge)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kentucky Chupacabra Update

First, another top ten list. The interesting thing about this list is that many of the "Top Ten" were once considered myths and later discovered to be real creatures. Alas, not so (yet) for Bigfoot and Nessie.
http://www.livescience.com/animals/top10_creatures_of_cryptozoology.html

And an update on the Kentucky Chupacabra!
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40948849/ns/local_news-louisville_ky/
At least they dropped that ridiculous theory about it being a mange-ridden coyote. It will be interesting to see what they find out about it, especially since "these kinds of raccoons are becoming more common in Kentucky." Is some disease sweeping the raccoon population, or is it a new species (the new, hypo-allergenic raccoon)? Inquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Technical Difficulties

No weird news today due to technical difficulties.

For several years, I've been using Microsoft's OneCare as antivirus/firewall/security software without any problems. They discontinued it and replaced it with a free product, Microsoft Security Essentials. Less than a month after installing it, my main Internet computer acquired a major virus that took over the whole system (literally, it threw a pop-up no matter what resident program you tried to open; everything was infected). So much for Microsoft Security Essentials. But I guess you get what you pay for, right?

Fortunately, being the paranoid, untrusting soul I am, I had already purchased an alternative security system and installed it on my main computer. So it was only a matter of reformatting the hard drive on the Internet computer and installing the more robust security system.

However, the Internet computer is ancient, so the process of updating all the software is taking forever. I won't have full Internet access until the upgrades are done (being paranoid, I try to use only that specific computer on the Internet, so there's less risk of the other computer being infected--no Internet, no virus access . . . generally).

If all goes well, the blog will be back to its regular posting schedule tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Diggin Those Truffles

I hate editing. Editing a short story is bad enough, but a novel? Yikes.

But I'm coping and progressing fairly well through the revision of my old fantasy novel, Macha Mong Ruadh.

I've already mentioned it was an accidental novel (didn't set out to write a fantasy novel, especially when fantasy isn't my normal genre). What I haven't mentioned is it's one of those rare, wonderful novels that practically write themselves. Not all of them do. Writing a novel really is like childbirth: some slide right out with very little effort on your part, and some you've got to grab with forceps and yank.

Although there were times I thought about just abandoning the novel, I couldn't. I'd been given the gift and felt guilty about tossing it on the trash heap. I did abandon it for quite a few years (as I've mentioned before). That added another level to the doubt-pile, because it is terribly, TERRIBLY hard to pick up an old project, dust it off, and try to come at it again.

When I did decide to dive into the revision, I discovered that the long pause was probably the best thing I could have done for the revision process. I've forgotten almost everything about the novel except for the character names. Talk about "reading with fresh eyes!" It doesn't get any fresher than that!

(Not that it needed to rest that long for me to forget. I walk from one end of the house to the other and forgot why I was going that way; god forbid I ever need an alibi for anything, because I can't remember what I did last week, much less where I was on the night of June-whatever).

Now my fresh eyes are doing a read-thru revision. I've taken a lot of notes of plots holes and point-of-view problems (I have a lot of scenes where the POV character isn't even in the room), and I'm filling a notebook with revision notes (bad POV; cut this scene and slide important piece of "info x" into another scene; Kilian sounds like Sulley in this scene; etc.). But there's a lot of good stuff in there. I'm very encouraged. I said it before, I'll say it again. Revision is a lot like truffle-hunting: you have to root through a lot of muck to get to the tasty morsels.

I'm currently on page mss page 100 of 300. Then I'll work with my notes and make the revisions. Then I'll let it rest again for at least a month (fresh eyes again)! Then I'll do another read thru revision, and repeat as needed until it's ready to start sending to agents!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Recommend a good paranormal romance?

I'm trying to broaden my horizons by reading in new genres. So I need a little help: I'd like to try a paranormal romance. Any recommendations?

I haven't read regular romance in years, much less paranormal romance (unless Twilight counts).

I like strong female characters--not female characters that are like every character Ben Stiller has ever played (you know, the poor shmuck who can't get anything right).

I don't mind anti-heroes; I actually prefer them: Scarlett O'Hara, House, the Dorian Gray character in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (before he revealed he was a bad guy), etc.

Profanity isn't a problem; Erotica is. Nothing too racy--this is my first venture into romance, so you'll have to be gentle with me.

And, last but not least, it has to be available in printed format (I'm still not used to reading on a screen).

Just leave your suggestions in the comments section. The blog is set to moderate comments, but I'll approve them so everyone's suggestions show.

Thanks!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Antiresolutions, N-words, and F-words

These are hilarious. I'm just about ready to do some anti-resolutions of my own, especially since my "quit nicotine lozenges" resolution is already falling apart.
New Year's Anti-Resolutions

I'm sure you've heard the news about the new censored version of Huckleberry Finn (if you haven't heard, they are removing the N-word). Here's Flavorwire's take on other books in need of an image makeover.
Beyond Huck Finn: Other Books in Need of an Image Makeover
I especially enjoy the Catcher in the Rye edit. One of my favorite movies is Fargo, and when it plays on basic cable they change the F-bomb (which Buscemi uses pretty liberally) to "Frozen." I love the irony; so glad they didn't use Fudge.

And since we've got to get our Walking Dead Fix somewhere while we wait for the next season:
5 Inappropriate Walking Dead Product Placements We Avoided
I love the caption on the first photo. But honestly, who would shop at Walmart AND Macy's? He needed a $4 shirt and a $100 pair of pants?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Writer or Author? A scribe by any other name . . .

First, the links for today:

Better Writing Habits: A 31-Day Makeover Challenge Helpful articles all month long!

Slow and Steady Wins the Race Writers and social media. I signed up for all the social media sites, just like the experts recommended, and it was too much. So I linked most of them, now concentrate on Twitter and Facebook (and this blog), and let Twitter and Ping feed the rest. That way, I have a "presence," but I don't have to spend every second of my day on-line.

Random Plot Points Random plot point generator to ramp up the conflict for your characters.

Ghostwoods: How to Write a Novel in Three Days


And now I have a question for you: do you call yourself writer or author?

A lot of writers are reluctant to admit they write. Or, as I saw in a post earlier in the week, they add "dismissive" qualifiers like, "I'm an aspiring writer." Experts tell us to "own" our profession, to not dance around it, and just come right out and say, "I write." Great advice, but I don't know what title I should be owning!

In conversation, when people ask what I do, I say, "I'm a writer" -- mostly because saying "I'm an author" sounds weird. But in printed form, I say, "I'm an author" -- because phrases like, "The official website of Brenda Kezar, writer" sound a little weird.

Or maybe I'm just can't shake my preconceived notions. When I think of "authors," I think of Hemingway and Dickens. When I think of "writers," I think of Stephen King and John Grisham. I associate "author" with literary works and "writer" with genre works (and I'm a genre scribe).

So what do you think? What do you call yourself, and does your perception change based on genre?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Truth is out there . . . unfortunately

Rats! I so wanted this one to remain a mystery!

A few years ago, I saw a special on "rods:" mysterious, rod-shaped flying objects. My interest was piqued, of course. I'm sure you've thought you saw something move, out of the corner of your eye, and when you looked, there was nothing there. Could it be . . . rods?

No. It could not. The myth has been debunked!
The Skeptic's Dictionary: rods
I love their comment on "sparrow chasing a rod:" looks like "sparrow chasing a bug."

Here's the site of the man who "discovered" rods. He still maintains they are real.
Roswell Rods

So what about those things you see out of the corner of your eye? Dust motes? Paramecium on your eyeball? Rods with a good "there was no one on the grassy knoll"-type publicist? "These are NOT the rods you seek."


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Newsweek's Top Wacky Headlines (w/ commentary) ;)

Newsweek's Top Headlines of 2010 (Weird and Wacky version)

Slide #2: Little dog mugged--
Let's see a mugger get the leather biker's jacket off a Rottweiler named Cujo. Somebody get help from slide #16 or slide #18!

Slide #3 No charges in student buttocks branding--
Um. And this WASN'T a hazing ritual? Texas Christian University . . . I wonder if the brand was "WWJD?" (Not this, I can tell you that much!)

Slide #4: Vampire brings out SWAT--
Is it just me, or is that vampire looking at the big guy on the left like he's a big greasy cheeseburger?

Slide #5: Topless gardening--
I hope they weren't growing roses; or poison ivy.

Slide #6: Beer drinking ex-model spared caning--
Nothing funny about this one. Pass.

Slide #7: Jail me, Elmo?
Now we know why Elmo's always so damn happy.

Slide #8: Man jailed for intentional vomit--
I tried this at a hockey game once, but it froze too fast.

Slide #9: Lord Jesus Christ hit by car--
At least he tried this BEFORE he tried walking on water.

Slide #10: Woman fends of bear attack with zucchini--
So it's true: NO ONE likes zucchini; and why exactly did she just happen to have a zucchini laying around, anyway?

Slide #11: Woman in Sumo wrestler suit assaults ex-girlfriend after she waved at a man in a Snickers suit--
Wow. You can't even make that sort of stuff up. Maybe the ex thought sumo-girl and Snicker-guy were soul mates. Or maybe she wanted to see her Sumo-friend eat a . . . okay, not touching that one. I have my limits.

Slide #12: Smoking chimp rescued, sent to Brazil--
If someone wants to give me a free trip to Brazil, I'll gladly start smoking again. But you know we'll be hearing about this again in a few months: drunken carnivale chimp rescued, sent to . . .

Slide #13: Man caught smuggling 18 monkeys in a girdle--
I only have one thing to say: where the hell can I get one of those girdles? If it can hold 18 monkeys, it should have no problem with my muffin top.

Slide #14: Dick Van Dyke rescued by porpoises--
What? Dick Van Dyke surfs? There's a mental pic I didn't need.

Slide #15: To hospital for gunshot wounds or eat my delicious sandwich first?
I don't blame him. Have you seen the prices on those sandwiches?

Slide #16: Police alerted to superheroes patrolling Seattle--
Maybe coffee needs to be a little less available in Seattle. And really--a ballistic cup? Go ahead and shoot my head off, just don't plug me in the family jewels!

Slide #17: Naked Irish sleepwalker wins libel suit--
The basis of the libel suit? Did someone make fun of the shrinkage?

Slide #18: Chihuahua joins Japan's police force--
Well, we all know how small the apartments are over there. And you know the dog will work: criminals will fall over laughing every time someone says, "release the dogs."

Slide #19: Amateur player jailed for driving car at referee--
Wow, I knew soccer was a rough sport, but these people just don't mess around!

Slide #20: Pa. man lights joint to celebrate child's birth--
You just know he's going to be the most popular dad on the block.

Slide #21: German retiree bricks himself into cellar--
Has this man never seen a Daffy Duck or Road Runner cartoon in his whole life?

I hope you enjoyed Newsweek's Top Wacky Headlines of 2010.

And yes, I'm like one of those "Mystery Science" characters: I can't even watch a movie without throwing in my two cents every few seconds. Sympathy cards are welcome, just address to "Brenda's long-suffering hubby."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Remakes, Prequels, and Sequels, Oh my!

Here's a Blastr poll: Which 2011 sci-fi movie are you looking forward to most?
http://blastr.com/2010/12/poll-which-2011-sci-fi-mo.php?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

I'm not a big fan of "superhero" movies or cartoons, so that takes several of the movies off my list right off the bat.

But I'm looking forward to:

Battle Los Angeles;
Pirates of the Caribbean (sequel);
X-Men: First Class (prequel);
Caesar: Rise of the Apes (remake);
Cowboys and aliens;
Conan the Barbarian (remake);
The Thing (prequel);
Sherlock Holmes 2 (sequel);

What's really amazing is how many movies on the list are remakes, prequels, or sequels. There are very few bright and shiny new movies here!

So which ones are you looking forward to?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Free-writing: warm-up or waste of time?

Last week on Twitter, someone was asking advice about free-writing: did it help for writer's block, was it a waste of words, etc.

Unfortunately, I lost the thread and didn't get to see the consensus among responders. Some people felt that free-writing is a waste of time; it wastes creative energy and wastes precious writing time that could be used on a specific project.

I don't think it's a waste of time, but I also don't free-write in the traditional sense. Most of the time, when people talk about free-writing, they are talking about sitting down at a blank page and just writing, stream-of-conscious style, whatever pops in your head. No guidelines, no expectations, just write.

No thanks. That would never work for me. I find the blank page far too intimidating.

What does work for me is "prompted" free-writing. I start with a word or a prompt and then brainstorm (and yes, sometimes stream-of-conscious scribble) from that prompt. I get a lot of story ideas that way. The novel I'm currently editing came from a prompt, and another novel (that I should someday get back to working on) about spiders invading from space came from a prompt (I remember the prompt: "write about a spotted cow"--trust me, it all fits, lol).

On Sundays, I collect prompts from all over the web and save them into files. I now have nineteen of these files, each one over 200 pages long. I should never run out of things to write about.

Then, during the week, I warm up by free-writing to a prompt before getting down to the regular business of writing and editing each day.

What about you--do you free-write? If so, do you prefer to leap blindly onto the page, or do you prefer a prompt to get the ball rolling?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Taking the weekend of from blogging to 1) recover from New Year's Eve, and 2) gear up for new projects (including getting my ducks in a row to edit my old novel and Kelly L. Stone's 90-Day Writing Challenge).

See you on Monday!