Friday, December 16, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday #4

Photo courtesy of Madison Woods

Greta woke to the grayness of dawn.  Time to rise, though she had no use for this day.  This Christmas day.  One year ago, her Henry had gone to his final rest.  She righted herself with a grunt, slipped her feet into her worn scuffs, and made her way to the kitchen. 
She lit the stove and set out a single cup and a tin of tea.  At the sink, the copper kettle fell from her hand without notice.  By the grandfather clock, long ago run down, stood a tree bedecked from tip to toe with twinkling lights and ornaments.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday #3

I’m grateful for this week’s Flash Fiction Friday photo challenge.  My other writing has been too somber and serious and introspective of late.  I enjoyed writing something silly and funny for a change – which is truer to my nature.  I ultimately have an enormous and not so slightly warped sense of humor.  Someday I might write a longer piece just for laughs.  In the meantime, here’s a little light-hearted humor in my third installment of Flash Fiction.
Photo courtesy of Madison Woods

Memaw hung up the phone and put on her pinched face.  Uncle Darryl was coming for a visit.  He was her little brother - not that she wanted to claim him most times.  He was a bit “touched” as Papaw would say.  We kids, on the other hand, loved his curious ways.  While the calendar put him at 26, the emptiness in his head made him a child.  Last time, we played hide-and-go-seek all day before he almost burned down the barn.  This time we would find better games and hope Memaw put the matches and kerosene high and away.   

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A tree by any other name


Today I realized what I love best about living here in the Pacific Northwest.  The sky may be gray more than other parts of the country, but I am surrounded by a never-ending wall of green.  As beautiful as the trees are here, they also vex me.  No, not the trees themselves, but the verbiage of the tree.
My current work of fiction takes place in the national forest surrounding Mount Baker.  So, you ask, how many times have I used a tree reference?  Too many to count.  (Despite my best efforts I still have 61 uses of “tree” itself)  I’m at a loss as how I should diversify my wording. 
Tree…foliage…forest…woods…trees…pines…firs…Douglass Fir…cedar…flora…plants…plant life…green…evergreen…sapling…seedling…timber…log…snag…
All describe what Christine is seeing at one point or another.  All convey the message, but how do I use the right word in the right place to paint the picture I want my reader to see?  My Flip Dictionary has an entire page of tree words but not many other words for tree. 
How do I make “tree” interesting?  I'm open to suggestions. 
(And, don’t even get me started with “green”.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday #2


Photo courtesy of Madison Woods
I found a good group on twitter after last week’s – uh…week before last’s – flash fiction post.  (I was stuffing myself with stuffing last week.)  Madison Woods (@Madison_Woods) posts a picture weekly and asks that the #Fictioneers write exactly 100 words related to or inspired by the Picture of the Week and post their work on their own blog, on twitter under #FlashFriday, and as a link on her blog (http://MadisonWoods.wordpress.com) for others to comment on and compare. 
Since my foot is philosophically stuck in a bear trap as far as progress on my full work of fiction (but I refuse to chew it off), I find this to be a great exercise to keep my mind in motion.  (Exercise my writing muscles). 
I encourage you to try it and keep those creative juices flowing, so to speak.  Speaking of juice, I need to go get another cup of extract of Coffea arabica.    
Here’s this week’s offering.  It is a bit depressing…
I sat beside my great-grandmother's bed and gazed through the woods framing the window of her small room.  Her fragile hands were in mine, but we did not speak.  I, because there was no need.  She, because her mind had long ago folded in upon itself.  In the quiet, I thought about everything she’d taught me – to bake, to garden, to love Jesus, to be a lady.  She was a mother to me when I had none.  I would miss her. 

I watched as another of the golden-hued leaves fell to the ground to make room for next year’s foliage.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday #1



Ok...so I was reading a fellow writer's blog. She wrote a short piece – precisely 100 words – dubbed "flash fiction."  This shortest of the short story ideally should be the first thing that pops into the writers mind.  Some are 300 words, some are more and some are far less.  Most seem to be less than 1,000 words.  Flash fiction is designed to be precise and concise and perhaps train the writer to not waste words – to make each and every one count for something.  I know I can be rather wordy when I write and took the micro-fiction challenge.  As a note, I also only gave myself 30 minutes to complete the piece.
   
Presenting for your critical review, my first attempt at fiction in a flash!
     
She watched the iridescent droplets of oil undulate on the surface of her coffee, but her mind was elsewhere.  Why had she agreed to go on the buying trip with Bill?  The fact that their divorce was amicable did little to temper her worries.  They divided the marital assets but neither wanted to resign from the textile firm they’d started two decades ago.  Managing to stay out of each other’s way hadn’t been difficult, but this latest crisis changed the rules.  And now she was headed back to Bali with him to the very place where it had all begun.

I challenge you to give it a try.  You too might be surprised at what you can come up with.  I sure never thought I would write anything this close to a romance...
 
Check out  my inspiration for this project http://susielindau.com/

Monday, November 14, 2011

Crossroads


I know why I am writing – to get the story out, to see it develop, to discover how it will all end.  All of these reasons have been said many times before and all reinforce the fact that I can finally admit I am writing for myself.  But now that the gist of it is done, and now that I have been spinning my wheels editing for a couple months, I am contemplating my intended destiny for the story.  Would anyone else actually want to read it?  It there any purpose in my effort to perfect the prose?  Is it good enough?  Is it unique enough?  Should I continue trying to fill in the gaps?  And, why?    
Is this a normal step in the life of a writer?  (Yes, I just called myself a writer.)  Does everyone ask themselves these questions?  Did Herman Melville wonder who in their right mind would want to read a story about a fishing trip?  (Trivia: Moby Dick was published exactly 160 years today)  Did Norman Mailer worry that 300,000 some words might be a bit much?     
Out of sheer exasperation/frustration/confusion/bewilderment, I technically haven’t looked at the story for about two weeks.  Less jotting down an idea or two, my words have stagnated on my laptop. 
However, despite the lack of physical work, the perils of Christine have never left my mind.  As I contemplate continuing, I look for signs that I should keep on keeping on.  I have found not a one – at least none that have blasted out of the sky like a booming voice or a burning bush.  I suppose the answer lies in the fact that I am still thinking about it.  Daily.  Since I feel I still have something to give to the project, I guess it’s time to make a u-turn and head back to the very beginning.  (It’s a very good place to start so says Julie Andrews…) 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Another True Story


I paused my writing to get deeper into the mind of my main character.  As I tried to understand what it might feel like to really be chased by a bad guy, I was reminded of a disturbing incident I had tucked away deep inside my own mind. 
Years ago, I was in San Diego for a six month long Navy school.  As per military requirements, and because I was bored to death (the family stayed behind in Virginia Beach), I ran nearly every afternoon. 
We were let out of class around 2:00PM one particularly gorgeous California fall day, so I started out on a 6-miler along a popular jogging trail that unfortunately at that hour was empty.  In the meticulously landscaped garden section I loved, I noticed a lone man sitting on the back of a bench alongside the trail.  He didn't seem particularly nefarious looking, indeed he appeared to be quite “normal.” (Isn’t that what they say about most serial killers?)  So, when he said, “Hi,” I nodded in reply as I passed by.  But when he jumped down and started to run a short distance behind me, I began to worry a little.  He was wearing blue jeans and boots – not your usual work out attire.  When he was still there a half-mile later, my spidey senses began to tingle.  I turned the volume down on my headset, and I heard him jog closer.  He was right on my heels.  I switched to the other side of the road.  He continued to pace me across from the street.  I tucked my keys one between each of my fingers and made a fist.  He switched sides again and fell into place behind me so close I could feel his breath tickling the hairs on the back of my neck.  There was not a single soul around and no place to get help, so I stopped and turned to him thinking direct confrontation might intimidate him – or at least let him know I was not afraid (when indeed I was terrified).  I asked him what he wanted, to which he replied, “I want to talk to you.”  I said I didn’t want to talk to him and that he needed to leave me alone.  I crossed back across the road as did he.  By now I was convinced he had motives other than getting in shape on his mind. 
I finally reached the turnaround where there were several large hotels and ran inside the very first one.  He followed me into the courtyard but disappeared among the trees when I approached a staff member.  The concierge must have seen the fear on my face and asked me what was wrong.  I explained the situation and he called security to look for the man.  San Diego police also came and took a report and then offered to escort me back on base to my room.  I was embarrassed to have to ask for help because of my own stupidity – running alone along a deserted trail - but gladly accepted their offer.
I never again ran that route even when it was heavily populated.  In fact, I never again ran off base.  Sometimes I wonder what could have happened.  I always fear the answer.  Even recollecting this story for my blog entry is giving me an anxiety attack.  Stomach pains, tears of frustration, a shortness of breath and a tightening in my chest…As much as I hate to feel like this, it does help me understand what Christine must be going through right now. 
Back to the story…

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

True Story



I’ve written, the last couple weeks, about where I got the idea for my book.  I said I was writing what I know.  In retrospect, I suppose it is a little misleading to say the events in my story are loosely based on my own life experiences.  Yes, I live in the Pacific Northwest (God’s country without a doubt).  Yes, I was in the Navy (as was my main character).  And, just like “Christine,” I too have an over active imagination sprinkled liberally with pessimism and dabbled with paranoia.  But, unlike poor Christine, I have never been hiking alone in the remote wilderness when I stumbled across a fresh murder scene.  Although, I have wondered what I would do if I ever did.  Hence the idea for my book.
(Wow, I never before noticed her name was an unintentional nod to the great Stephen King…and classic cars, both of whom I adore).
A couple weeks ago, I received a thought provoking blog comment from one Chuck Barrett (http://chuckbarrettbooks.com/).  After he assured me that fishing in the pool of one’s own past for ideas is not a cop-out, he added, “How many horror writers actually experienced all that slashing?  Most just reached into their soul and conjured something that had excited their imagination.” 
Well, then…that’s exactly what I did.  Let me tell you how my story developed.  How something “excited my imagination.” 
Out for a walk along a desolate country road, I was distressed by all the garbage in the ditches.  I saw a little of everything.  I joked that all the sins of society were present and accounted for - alcohol, cigarettes, fast food and even a porno.  This was when my horror writer's imagination took over and saw a foot, a severed human foot, lying in the ditch next to one of the abandoned beer bottles.  In real life, I realized I was the only one around.  Indeed, nothing moved as far as my eyes could see.  The only sound was the crackle of a white plastic shopping bag trapped against a fence post.  I was actually feeling a little spooked by my own scenario when a beige, early 80’s model Ford LTD drove up behind me far slower than the posted speed limit.  Cigarette smoke and the thump of the stereo poured out of the open window as it rolled by. 
This set the story into overdrive.  Find a severed body part and then the murderer finds me.  Imagine how I felt when the same car (in real life) drove back by me a second time a few minutes later.  And, maybe a half hour later, would you believe a third time and that I saw it turn DOWN THE ROAD TO MY HOUSE?  Do you think I wanted to go home?  But, I convinced myself the guy was lost or something and I shouldn’t meld an albeit strange coincidence into my fake finding of the foot. 
After much effort, I was able to convince myself to abandon my delusion and turn onto the two-lane, unmarked road off of which several private drives wind back into the woods.  The car was nowhere to be seen.  I felt silly.  About a mile down the road, I made the final turn onto the dead-end lane that leads to only four driveways – one of which was mine - and saw the car idling in the drive at the far end.  He saw me (or not) and left, hurrying past me for the fourth and final time.  At this juncture, I'd say my fears were justified (and I jotted down his license plate).  But, that was it.  That's all it took.  The story was born.

Yes, the “bad guy” in my book drives a white Ford LTD although he looks little like the teen in the car.  But no, thank God, I haven’t seen him again…or any dismembered body parts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The doctor is in

Last Wednesday I wrote about writing what I know.  I guess I should come clean and admit (to you and to myself) that I have based more than a few of my character’s issues on my life experiences.  A lot – most of it - is soon deleted because it really has nothing to do with the story line, but it is very therapeutic to puke it up and put it on paper.  I’ve exorcised more than a few demons through my writing.  Here’s one…
“Christine” found the military to be a sexist place to work.  There are few truer truths.  We all pretend women get equal billing in the military, but this is simply not true.  Sexual harassment is alive and well despite all the mandatory training (hell, I came in at a time when it was not only prevalent but also accepted and expected.  Nothing – NOTHING – was done about it.  Nothing.).  Sex discrimination was something I dealt with almost every single day in one way or another.  All the while I had to pretend it WASN’T HAPPENING.  I was expected to do my job and SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP. 
Maybe I was too sensitive.  No…I wasn’t, because I didn’t let it bother me - then.  It was far easier to ignore it.  I learned to roll with the punches and MAN UP.  But, in writing this story, I’ve discoverd it must have bothered me far more than I realized.  Or, maybe it’s just good story fodder.  Either way, it's in there.  To quote myself:
"Although plenty of women served, the ones that succeeded did so by conforming to the male way.  By slowly but surely whittling away at their femininity, many even started to look like men.  Few women she’d ever worked with, especially on the ships, wore makeup or did their hair – nothing.  Nearly every female senior officer she’d ever worked for was tough as nails, some even bordered on mannish.  It was easier to blend in – to camouflage."
Disclaimer:  Query 100 women who have served or still are serving in the military, and you will get 100 individual opinions.  This is just one.  Mine. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In the Zone

I am writing about what I know – mostly.  I combined ideas I’ve had with moments I lived, blurred them a bit and augmented them with subject research.  Yes, my story is roughly rooted upon my experiences; however, I am not writing a biography - she (my main character) is not me.  Not even remotely.  She is a figment of my imagination but was born of my memories.  Maybe it was easier starting with what I know.  Maybe not.  Right now, one would say I am writing in my comfort zone.   It’s anything but, though.  It has caused me to dig up some old bones – none of which actually made it to the page.
Writing about what one knows is like riding a bike with training wheels or splashing around in the shallow end of the pool.  Is it safe?  Definitely.  Is it a cop-out?  Maybe. 
I have to respect anyone that can create a full story based on pure fiction.  It has to be much harder to start from scratch.  Stephen King admits he had a difficult time writing Carrie because he knew nothing of the subject matter – teenage girls.  But, I have to say, it is one of his best.  It might even be my favorite. 


Good stuff, huh?  So, what makes for the better story?  Writing about the familiar or jumping off the high dive into the deep end where one must flail about until they can learn to swim.
I really don’t know.  But, I’m going to finish my work in progress and maybe in the next story, I will be ready to take the plunge into the unknown.        

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Whittle a little

So, I guess I’m officially editing my story now.  I try to think of it as a sculpture.  I can clearly see the shape it is destined to take and whittle away at the block of marble, koa wood, or soap (you pick one) little by little, smoothing away the unwanted with progressively finer tools.  I’ve heard, if one wants to carve a horse, for example, one needs to to chip away everything that doesn’t look like a horse.  In the case of my writing, I’m deleting everything that doesn’t look like the plot and, unlike carving, I can add back in pieces that seem to fit.  While my story is far from perfect, I can see it progressing.

Due to a recent, particularly brutal bout of revisions, I came away battered and bruised by the effort.  It was then that I realized editing is less like carving and more akin to stuffing my less than perfect self into a pair of Spanx.  It is a painful and tedious process but the end result is a smooth silhouette with no visible lumps or bulges and zero VPL (which, for those of you who don’t know, that stands for “visible panty line."  I did not know this but was recently enlightened.  Who knew?)
I guess what I am saying is that I know the end result will be worth all the effort.  I must keep on mashing and manipulating, tweaking and twisting, smashing and squashing until the story flows smoothly with no wrinkles or hitches and zero VPL (Visible Plot Lines).   
Or maybe, writing is even more like giving birth…the end result of all that agony is something beautiful created wholly by me.  Something I can be proud of.  Something I’d like to do again.  But not until I recover a bit…    

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don’t judge a house…

The new home we bought is deceptively small looking from the outside.  Inside is another story – literally.  Below the split level half that holds the bedrooms is a finished, sun-lit basement.   Although most is a single large room, I was surprised to find (after I’d lived here more than a week) a home office behind door number four.  I guess I assumed it was another closet…but we all know what happens when we ASS U ME…
When I finally found my little Narnia with its built in desk and the view of the underneath side of a huge Japanese maple and a red rhododendron bush, I instantly thought, “library,” and wedged in the two 8’ book cases and stuffed them full of books.  (I have a TON of books)
However, after reading Stephen King’s On Writing, it dawned on me that I had the perfect space for what King deems a writing necessity -  a dedicated, isolated place to practice one's craft.  So, yesterday, I finished hauling out the boxes containing the 31 volume 1988 Encyclopedia Britannica (what the HELL were we thinking?!), the extra pieces from the ultra-plush “teddy bear brown” carpet we installed in the basement, and a couple dozen boxes of VHS tapes (do we even still have a VCR?) and declared the space Fit To Work In.

It still needs a bit more work - as you can see - but, in celebration, I’m headed down there now to get writing in My Very Own Writing Space.    

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Damn the Word Count - Full Speed Ahead


So, I’ve been reading Stephen King’s On Writing.  In it, he recommends having a toolbox of writing essentials.  I have one.  In it is a dictionary, thesaurus, and my Flip Dictionary.  I'm still up in the air over that one – I’m currently on the “it’s a big thesaurus” team.  Stand by for my final analysis.  And, now I’ve added The Elements of Style (Strunk and William), as per his suggestion, as well as my very own copy of On Writing.    
I’d call On Writing a How-to book on writing, but it’s not.  Reading it is more akin to sitting down with an old friend and having a chat.  Figuratively speaking, I’ve known Stephen since I was a pre-teen. Christine was the first of many of our conversations.  In On Writing, King tucks nuggets of knowledge inside his real life experiences making it seem like less of a DO THIS and more of a HEY, TRY THIS.  (Despite my years in the military – or maybe because of them – I hate being TOLD what to do.)
I’m sure I drove my twitter followers crazy with King quotes this last week, but I can’t get over how helpful I’ve found his advice.  Yesterday I hacked 1000 words from my first chapter.  I tried not to watch as my word count dropped from 3,700 and change down to 2,605 as I cut out all the repetitiveness, adverbs and random blather.  Then, I had an epiphany – I realized the quantity had somehow overshadowed the quality in importance.  I said to myself, “Self, Damn the word count.  Get the story right, and the word count shall follow.” 
Those are not King’s words – they are mine.  But, he is free to use them. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Gospel According to King

I have great esteem for Stephen King, so reading his take on what I am trying to do (write) is important.  About a month ago I reserved On Writing at the little library in town.  I was at the bottom of a long waiting list.  So, I waited.  Amazingly, it came in this afternoon. 

This evening, as I waited for my daughters to get out of religion class, I leaned against the brick wall outside the entrance to the church and read by the dim glow of the security light.  King’s words were like the gospel to me.  (semi-sacrilegious allegory be damned…I have to go to confession on Saturday anyway). 

I was captivated by the first sentence on the dust jacket.  “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

Page after page, I consumed every word.  Sometimes I am guilty of skimming, but not this time.  I wanted to savor each syllable.     

The Way:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”

The Truth:

“Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”

The Light:

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

Wow.  Heavy stuff.  Now that I have On Writing in my hands, I plan to be doing a lot of reading.  I’ll get back with you cats in a few days…

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How does your garden grow?


As I weeded my garden this morning, I thought about yesterday’s post.  Maybe the sun was getting to me (it hit 80 here for the first time this year), but I started to equate my writing to gardening.  In many ways, they are the same.   
The end result:  What I get out of my garden is directly proportional to the amount of work I put into it.  Writing is the same.  It takes constant nurturing, constant work, and constant attention to bring forth a worthwhile product.   Just as a halfhearted garden will grow poor quality vegetables – if anything at all – a halfhearted writing effort will result in a substandard story.
Weeding and thinning:  In my garden the weeds seem to grow quicker than even the zucchini (zucchini would grow on the moon, I’m certain).  If I didn’t pull the thistles, clovers and dandelions, they would easily take over and strangle the desirable plants.  Equally important is thinning.  I planted beets and was surprised to see every single seed germinated.  I had to make the hard decision to pull up a bunch of baby beets.  I generally removed the smaller ones but occasionally found two of exact height growing side by side and had to sacrifice one without disturbing the other.  If I didn’t do this, none of the iron-rich root veggies would have adequate room to grow correctly, and I would have a poor harvest.  Again, this can be applied to writing.  Some parts are obviously garbage and should be deleted while others seem ok, but one has to make the hard decision to cut them out and permit the better parts to be strengthened.
Know when to fold:  I planted cucumbers this spring.  Because of my northern climate, they did not do well.  After a month, the seeds were a no show.  I opted to plow that part of the garden under and plant collards – a more appropriate cool weather crop.  Within a week I had sprouts.  In writing, one has to recognize when something is not working and have the intestinal fortitude to scrap the crap and start all over again.
I’m certain many more comparisons can be made between the two – reap what you sow, use the right tools, or something about patience (a virtue I do not have) – but you’ll have to excuse me from elaborating any further.  I have some serious weeding to do.  Indoors. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Train Derailed


I blame it on first week of school, but I have not had a productive writing week.  At.  All.  And, this is an understatement.  I haven’t written a word in a week.  All stop.  All forward motion has ceased completely.  Somehow, I got off track…and never got back on.
I posted on twitter not too long ago that I blamed my lack of writing on the fact that the kids were home and underfoot.  I’ve also blamed errands, the sunshine and my garden.  I’ve blamed laundry, appointments, cooking and housework.  Blame this, blame that, blame the other.  So, what is the real problem here?  
It’s not writer’s block.  The story is written.  I’m not overwhelmed with the edit process.  That’s my for.  It’s not ADHD or whatever they call it…(Look!  A squirrel)
What do you do when you get stuck in a rut of non-productiveness?  When you lose your focus?  How do you get back on track?  If there is apparently nothing stopping me, then there should be nothing to getting started again.  To quote that tennis shoe company, I guess I should Just Do It! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Drive time

I am also a car enthusiast…heck, enthusiast is not quite the right word.  Freak might be more like it.  I’ve owned 20 cars and currently have four – 2 toys and 2 daily drivers.  My dream car of cars is a Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe.  Unfortunately, they are few and far between.  Nevertheless, I can dream. 


I was thinking about the word “drive” today, and it doesn’t only apply to luxury automobiles.  It also addresses personal motivation.  I wrote on Friday that I want to see my book on the library shelf.  But, there’s more.  Other reasons include to get the story out of my head – to see how it ends – to share it with others – to speak my mind uninterrupted.
But, even that is not 100% of the truth.  Another motive is not nearly as honorable.  I would love to be paid to write again.  I have a head full of ideas and stories, and I think they are good.  I can actually see myself as a professional fiction author.  However, I'm not greedy - I don’t fantasize about being filthy rich.  Well, that’s not entirely true either – that Daytona costs big bucks.  But, I’d like to make a living doing something I enjoy…and I enjoy writing. 
Why do you want to be published?  Money?  Fame?  A Pulitzer?  I think, in order to write – and to write effectively, we have to honestly identify our motivation.
What drives you?  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Andrew Carnegie - My Hero


Heavy wooden doors open to endless adventure.   Dark gold carpet lines the floors between the shelves of hardback tomes.  Polished mahogany tables wait dimly illuminated by green glass desk lamps.  Murmurs of hushed conversations whisper by.  My heart is beating with excitement.  I’m in a place of sheer magic.    
It’s summer time, 1979, and I’ve walked down the street to the Carnegie Public Library to look for the latest Nancy Drew mystery and turn in the five books I checked out just yesterday.  My goal is to fill all 100 squares on my summer reading club with stickers (but really I am there for the books).      
My love of writing grew from a love of reading.  The printed word is very addictive, and I am happily a life-long book addict.  I blame Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919).
The star of his own true rags to riches story, Carnegie used his hard-earned fortune to build public libraries (3,000 of them, in fact) and push for fee free usage for all (amongst many other philanthropic endeavors).  His goal was to bring education and literacy to the masses.   In his own words:
“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” - Andrew Carnegie
Maybe this is why I dream not of seeing my book(s) on the fabled New York Times Best Seller List (although I certainly wouldn’t complain) but on the shelf of my neighborhood library.  That is my goal.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Moving Pictures

Reading and writing go hand in hand…with the cinema.  An author has a great idea for a story and writes it down.  The book is published.  A lone reader picks it up and enjoys it immensely…then another and another until finally the idea to make it into a movie is broached.  Soon, scripts are written, roles are cast, tickets and popcorn are bought and the story springs to life before the eyes of audiences around the world.  Sometimes the movies are far better, but other times the story is done a great injustice by poor acting or changes to the plot.  That is always disappointing.    
Either way, I can’t help but wonder what sparkle in a story ensures it will make a good movie?  Drama? The “triumph of human spirit”?  Suspense?  Blood and guts?  Romance?  Humor?  Can any good read make a great movie? 

My love for reading is only slightly overshadowed by my adoration of a good flick.  I don’t have a top ten list, because there are far too many greats.  But, a few notables are as follows:
~The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies are pure eye candy.  I haven’t read all of the books but can sit down and watch any of the movies, at any part of the movie, and be swept away from the real world.
~Stephen King movies (Less Lawnmower Man.  Blech!  What were they thinking?!  Thank God he sued.)  All have not been award winning film making.  But, because I love King, most were worth my time and money – some more than others – especially The Shining, Carrie, The Dead Zone, The Green Mile, It, Misery (I'm your biggest fan!)…
~Here is an assortment of my personal favorites in no particular order.  Don't analyze me, please: Full Metal Jacket (adapted from The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford), The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck), Imitation of Life (Fannie Hurst), A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess), Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan), and The Caine Mutiny (Herman Wouk).   
Now, it's time for you to buy some Jujubes and tell me which adaptations have moved you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Kingdom for a Typewriter

I cannot seem to stay on task.  I get ready, get set, and go…tapping out my story on my red laptop (red is my favorite color – especially since I’m a Buckeye fan).  But then I pause while I think…and scrooooll back a page or two and see a misplaced comma or three uses of the word “walk” in the same paragraph…and now I’m rewriting something I should ignore…at least for the time being.

A typewriter would stop this bad writing habit.  I’m certain of this.  I would be barred from instantaneous copy, cut and paste.  I would largely have to ignore my mistakes until it was time for a rewrite.  I would have to STAY ON TASK.  Too bad typewriters are few and far between with the ribbons even farther.  I probably could still find one on e-bay… 
When I was in high school (“back in my day”) we were all required to take typing.  Those who improved beyond 60 wpm on the old ka-chunk, ka-chunk black manual typewriters were promoted to one of the zippy slick electric models in the front of the room.  In my Navy days, we used typewriters for everything and woe was anyone who made a typo because the entire form or document had to be rewritten from the start.  Funny too, when I lived in Japan (arguably the computer capital of the world), at the dawn of this millennium they still used typewriters in every government facility I visited.
Alas, I am cursed with this modern “convenience” of the electronic age where spelling mistakes are detected in a moment’s notice and a pop-up thesaurus is only a click away.  Bah…maybe I’ll keep my lovely laptop and instead look online for some sticktoitiveness.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I swear it’s research for a book!

Since I’m creating a work of fiction and only personally know a bit about what I am writing, I depend heavily on library books containing pertinent subject matter.  However, I am starting to wonder if my research is going to earn me a spot on an FBI watch list.  So far I’ve read books pertaining to serial killers, terrorists, land navigation, enhanced interrogation techniques, wilderness survival, booby traps…oh, and trees of the Pacific Northwest.

I’ll have to say, my favorite and one of the most useful was also what I would call a Good Read.  I have to recommend it…if this is your style…or even if it’s not.  Check out How to Break a Terrorist: The US Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq by Matthew Alexander (his pen name for obvious security reasons). 

The story endeavors to prove so-called torture (enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding, stress positions, sensory deprivation, and more) is not as effective as simply outsmarting the terrorist.  You’ll have to read it to find out what happens…and to form your own opinions.  Just don’t read it on the airplane like I did…I got some funny looks.       
Not only have these books provided a wealth of information, but I am also fascinated by the content.  No, my attraction to these does not alarm me, as I’ve always had a somewhat gruesome taste in entertainment – but my husband may be starting to worry… 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Discipline!

I occasionally peruse the Writer’s Digest website (www.writersdigest.com) and happened across a great article titled, “10 Disciplines for Fiction Writers.”  In the wake of yesterday's poignant “how much and when” question, it was much appreciated.  You should read the whole thing - I recommend it - but this is my rough interpretation:
-Write early and write often.   Write first thing in the morning AFTER (or with) my coffee and BEFORE I can make excuses.  And, write every day.

-Just write!   The devil may be in the details, but he’s also trying to distract me with them.  In other words, I need to stop obsessing about commas and colons and work only to crank out relatively lucid sentences/paragraphs/chapters each time I sit down to the keyboard.

-Quota.  Set a daily or weekly (or both) word count goal and stick to it – oh, and record it somewhere to document progress.

-Writing Wednesday.  (Or Typin’ Tuesday, Fabulist Friday, or whatever) Dedicate one day a week to writing and nothing else!
There are many more gems in the below link (including taking walks to keep mind and body supple), but this is certainly enough to get me started…or give me a “A kick in the rear!”

Monday, August 22, 2011

So many excuses…

…so little time. 
I need to write.  I want to write, but I keep finding reasons to distract myself.  If writing were my paid occupation, I would do it and not let myself be sidetracked by laundry, kids, cooking, garden, turkeys and all the rest of my 101 excuses.  But it’s not my job (yet).
I recently read that those who do not make writing their priority will not succeed.  But I want to.  Succeed, that is.
Set a goal.  One hour a day?  Three?  What is right for me?  What is right for you?  How do you stay focused?  Do you give yourself breaks?  Should I give myself breaks?  Weekends?  Time off?  Or should I write something, even a little, every day.  On the computer, in a journal, on scraps of paper, napkins or Post-Its?
This weekend we had company and the next two will probably be spent camping or swimming at the lake cabin – or otherwise enjoying the last bits of summer.  Do I take time during these to write?
I know one thing.  Unless I make a plan, I won’t ever finish.  But I want to.  Finish my story, that is.  So, I need to stop making excuses.
According to my good friend Ben (Franklin), “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Help, assistance, aid

When I write, I find I have the problem, trouble, misfortune of reusing the same old words over and over again.  Thankfully, my dictionary (I am also a terrible speller) and thesaurus are always, constantly, forever by my side.  But, if I were only permitted one writing tool, implement, utensil, my dog-eared paperback of synonyms would be it.  I absolutely love, adore, worship this book of similar words.  Recently though, I was introduced to an alternative, different, substitute option.  A fellow member of my writing group recommended, suggested, proposed Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

Available new from amazon.com for $13.72, it is billed as the handy, useful, practical guide for those writers who know what they want to say but not how to say it.  A look, peek, glimpse inside shows 704 pages of common and uncommon word replacements (as well as lists of topic oriented terminology.)   
Is it as wonderful, brilliant, amazing as all of the five-star reviews state?  (A couple do argue, counter, debate it is no more than a "reverse dictionary.")  Will it really, truly, honestly suggest a wider range of substitutes for my many typical repetitive words like certainly, relax, and decide?  I look forward to, count on, anticipate receiving my copy next Tuesday.
I will let you know if it is a resource worth purchasing, buying, acquiring.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I need it

Twenty years in the Navy, my peon years spent making the extra thick coffee for the Chief Petty Officers, the last four as a Chief Petty Officer, but not once drinking the stereotypical Lifeblood of the Navy.  Now, I need it.  Every single day.  Extra strong, extra thick.

I especially crave the caffeinated chrism this morning because I fell asleep way too late (the kids camped in the yard last night), slept like crap in the living room lounge chair (to stop chainsaw killers from getting to the kids first), and woke way too early (the neighbor’s rooster and text messages from my mom).

I made a seven cup pot as my wish was to be alive and alert for my second writer’s support group this afternoon (at a coffee shop…go figure).  This meeting is important for two reasons: writing support and mental support. 

When I met these men and women (all ages, most published, some not) last Wednesday for the first time, they didn’t once reinforce my own too frequent, discouraging thoughts:
“What makes you think you can write?”
“What makes you think anyone wants to read what you wrote?”
“Just because your  (A. College professors  B. Aunt Carol C. Grandfather the Newspaper Editor D. All of the above) said you should write, doesn’t mean you should!”
“You never finish anything!”
Nope…I walked in and they said, “Who are you and what do you write?  Have a seat and join us.”  No judgment, no opposition.  There was nothing but quiet encouragement…and I need it.