A to Z Challenge 2013

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm Zombie-fied

Thanks to my buddy the Guppster, I have crafted my image in zombie for all to gape at:
Note the disintegration of my already failing eyesight (and now resident worm). I'm sporting a fire truck red Jester's cap to illustrate my never-ending sense of humor (even bein' a zombie can be funny). Finally, I've strapped on spiked attire, because only a zombie at night can make spikes look fashionable (as well as just plain cool). Feel free to be jealous. My zombie form will be the talk of the town.

Review - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the debut novel of astounding author Jamie Ford. The story drops you into the lap of Henry Lee, a man who is dealing with the loss of his wife to cancer, an uncomfortable past with his parents, a reluctantly distant relationship with his son, and memories of a Japanese girl he once loved so long ago. Henry was twelve when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was a Chinese boy encased in an all White school, forced to speak English by parents who didn't, ostracized by a society looking for Japanese spies around every corner, and unable to stop the injustices he could see being forced upon his neighbors. It was a time of internment camps for Japanese-American citizens and a complete lack of respect for any non-whites.

The novel depicts an instrospective look at Henry's life, during his childhood and as he copes with his wife's death, finding the poignant moments that shaped (and continue to shape) him. The events of the time are astoundingly brutal. The book however, is surprisingly tender, even during the most vicious scenes. The cultures of both the Japanese and the Chinese come through clearly, and you will find yourself swept away to a past some wish would never have happened but should never be forgotten.

I have to mention that prior to this novel, I really had not educated myself on the history of the Japanese internment camps. I was astounded at the visuals Jamie depicts, and I really enjoyed the perspective of Henry - particularly since he is a Chinese man affected by the wrongs done against the Japanese. The book is incredibly well-written, and its immediately obvious why this novel leaped onto the New York Times Best Sellers List. I truly regret not reading this book back in February, because I would have done whatever I could to meet Jamie when he toured Denver. He is an exceptional author, and this is must have for any library.

What Is Writing To You?

KLo, you're going to have to forgive me for this one. I'm borrowing a thread you started, so that I can spin it out here, see how many kittens come by to play with the end.

The question that leaped into my mind while reading KLo's post was this. What is writing to me? There were many comments on her page, and I'll leave it up to you to read them. As for me, writing is a multi-faceted beast that I barely control. Rather than something internal, a hunger I feed or an addiction I beg release from, writing is an external friend. Its a buddy sitting next to me, poking a finger in my ribs when I'm asleep in math class. At certain moments, writing is a rollercoaster ride I'm enjoying, my arms held high and my fingertips aiming for white puffs of clouds. Unfortunately, sometimes that ride slams unexpectedly into a brick wall. Then writing becomes a battle through a raging snowstorm, my legs being sucked down into white powder thick as mud. Until the sun comes out, I struggle to make an inch of progress.

I could wax on metaphorically all day I guess, but the point is that for me, writing is an external thing. It doesn't feel like an internal process that others describe, an need or addiction that must be dealt with. Its not a salve either, a bandaid that makes my wounds heal. So maybe thats part of my problem, that I visualize writing as a bizarre creature I try to lasso. Sometimes I manage to get the rope around its head and ride the beast. Sometimes I get dragged through the sun-blasted landscape. Am I the weird one here? Maybe... just maybe.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

40 And Counting

It astounds me that I have 40 followers. Okay, so this isn't as significant a number as 50 or maybe even 100. But it struck me as completely cool. Thanks everybody for coming to the party.

Now I didn't just want to put a post up about that. I ran across an incredibly useful post on Michelle McLean's blog about showing rather than telling. This has been a concept I've struggled (and probably still will struggle with for some time), but Michelle explains it very clearly. This is one post you really should read, even if you've conquered this particular bastion of evil.

I recently received my copy of "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" from Amazon, and I am fairly far along in the book. I will be posting a review of this excellent book in a day or two, so keep your eyes peeled. I also emailed the author, Jamie Ford, who has kindly agreed to an interview. So I'll have that out to you all in a few days as well. Jamie has all the appearances of being a very down-to-earth author, despite the fact that this debut novel of his has already climbed the charts (so to speak). I can vouch for the fact that he is unassuming and quite friendly, so its going to be a real pleasure to have him on the blog.

Lastly, I seem to have gotten over my bout of writer's distraction/avoidance and am back at the wheel. I appreciate everyone's support, and hopefully I'll have both of my projects done soon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Old Habits Are Hard To Break

I've been absent from the blog/writing world for quite a few days, and I'm not too happy to admit it. As you can tell from my last post, I started playing World of Warcraft again. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, except for when one allows it to become a focus of all activity. When I first began this writing journey, I told myself I was going to be committed to working on it all the time. I even joined a writing challenge a few weeks ago, and I stuck with it for quite a while. But as the title says, old habits creep back in fairly easily. I fell off the proverbial wagon with a bone-jarring thump, and I've just barely managed to pull myself back up.

To keep this blog about the craft though - as opposed to just my own writing - this experience begs the question. How do we go about pruning away our old habits and developing new ones, particularly with writing in mind? Any author will tell you that writing is a hard task, and I would agree with the sentiment that writing is even harder for those of us who choose to write. We agonize over every turn of phrase, stumble while searching for the perfect word, and painfully edit our own work before sending it out into the world. It's fun and not fun, all at the same time. Entire worlds can come alive with our work, and sometimes we feel like the world we create will never be completely finished.

There are also the category of writers for whom writing is not a deeply ingrained necessity. For this group, writing is not "in the blood" but rather something we strive to do through sheer force of will. I cannot say whether writers who must write have it any easier, but I can say that choosing to write rather than needing to write is one of the most difficult tasks I've come across. So how do we as writers form new writing habits? I will share with you a few things I've learned (and continue to learn), and hopefully at least some of it will help.

Rule #1 - Write. Write some more. Write again. The point here is to not stop writing, no matter how many distractions there are.

Rule #2 - Do not edit while you write. One of the hardest things to do is to write without going over and over the words, searching for that "perfect" one.

Rule #3 - Once you've finished the story, go back and edit thoroughly. Given the massive number of possible authors in the world, you don't want to send out something thats half baked.

Rule #4 - Persistence coupled with knowledge is paramount. You want to be persistent, never giving up on finishing your writing projects. If you don't couple that with knowledge however, your writing skill will never improve. Continuing to write without improving your skills through knowledge means you are not getting better. But giving up without learning how to write better is just as bad.

Rule #5 - Find a balance in everything you do. This last one is important, particularly because we all have busy lives with many things going on. Too much of any one thing is not good. Too little of any one thing is not good either. This includes writing. It also includes everything outside of writing.

Its quite possible that we've all heard these things before. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves however, chant the rules like a mantra as we sit down at the desk. And be ready to forgive yourself if you fall off the wagon. Mistakes serve the best purpose when we learn from them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Servers Are Up!

Okay, here's the bit where you all get to see my geekdom in all its glory. I've been waiting all morning for World of Warcraft servers to be online again. They were doing maintenance, and this is happens to be one of the few days I managed to be home. I haven't played in like 2 weeks, because my parents were visiting. So its safe to say I'm going through withdrawals. I should probably be writing, I should probably be working on my WIP, I should probably be continuing with my short story. Sorry Muse, I got a gaming habit thats been neglected severely. Woot!

When do you pick a genre? Or how?

I had a moment of insight as I was reading through other blogs. When I begin writing something, I usually start with a first sentence and see where my fingers take me. Its a flaw really, because I don't outline anything (something I've noticed as a problem I need to fix) and worlds just begin to exist within my mind. Sometime down the road, I'm a thousand words into a project and people are born, conflicts built, realities now existing where they didn't before. I don't really figure out where I'm going with things though until I'm well into it.

About the second chapter (maybe) or so, I start to decide a general direction and then I'm off, like a jackrabbit running from the fox. The fox is my right on my heels, and the finish line I'm searching for is two words: The End. I'm usually hopping along so fast though - building paths as I go - that I have no idea what type of world it is I'm running in. Add to that the fact that I'm not entirely clear on figuring out what type of world it should be anyway. Categorization has never really been my forte, and learning how to do it with my writing has been agonizing. So the question I pose is when do you pick a genre? Is it after you've already gotten the premise of the story down? Or do you find yourself beginning a thriller only to find its actually romance? Do your characters start out YA and become literary? I don't really have answers for myself here, but I'm open to anyone else's thoughts.

Short Story Beginning

Last night I started something new, mostly because I wasn't really up for working on my WIP for some reason. So the following is what I came up with. Its not finished of course, but I'll probably do some more on it or work on the novel later today.

The key wouldn't turn. Kris didn't know what else to do, and it was getting pretty late. His hazard lights cast a hazy on-off glow, keeping rhythmic time. The mist crawled across the lot behind him, slow as a panther hunting quarry. He wiggled the ignition one more time, finally getting the silver to rotate a half turn. The dead click sealed the deal; he was walking and he didn't even know exactly which way to go. Kris checked the interior of the SUV once more, making sure he had everything, and then he creaked the door open. The blast of air hit him for a second, catching the young man off guard. His dark eyes widened in surprise, but the forceful breeze was gone.

Kris looked around carefully, his shoulders bunched in irritation. Every nerve itched to fire in his arms, and it suddenly became clear – the silence. The silence was bone jarring as a rock concert. Not even his own heartbeat was audible. He brushed his long hair aside, rubbing a finger in his ear as if to clear it of debris. His eyes were scanning the black landscape, leaping to the amber pools falling from streetlights and store fronts. Now he was getting a little freaked out, and he didn't mind admitting it to himself. Somethin' was down right wrong. Turning around slowly, he noticed the mist across the way was the only thing moving, sliding inexorably across the open expanse of pavement. He could hear its scrape against the wet cement. It was a sour sound, reminiscent of a cat's last yowl; a long never-ending note that played viciously upon the spine. He shouldn't be hearing that though. For one thing, it was over 200 yards away. More importantly though, mist didn't usually make sound. At least he'd never heard of it before. He could see through the mist to something within, but it wasn't really movement. Unreal telescopic vision played images upon his retinas, showing him a purplish glow with silvery tendrils just inside this low fog bank. He blinked twice, looking once more. The white mists covered this purple amoeba completely, but somehow he knew it was more of a doorway than some monstrous thing. The silvery tendrils were something from the other side, some ethereal gases escaping. How he knew this was a mystery, but there was no doubting what he knew. He always knew.

His mama didn't raise no fool, and he wasn't about to go closer to that weird shit. Turning in the opposite direction, Kris walked away from his useless hunk of black metal quickly, not daring to look back at the encroaching miasma. It was there. He knew it. The blackness between pools of amber cast from lights above was absolute, like when those cops shined interrogation lights at you. You couldn't see anything but the light. He'd read once that it was supposed to intimidate you, but he didn't believe it. Maybe it was because of who he was. Not much intimidated him...except for the truly weird. Unfortunately, he ran into the truly weird more often than cops with interrogation lights. He didn't know why that was either. Another gap in his disorganized memory. He knew things, particularly about the weird shit. But he didn't know why, and he didn't know where it all came from. Nobody did. It was like that X-files show, where men in black suits and sunglasses-at-night showed up to tell you not to say anything. They didn't really know either, but they wanted you to believe their super-secret world included understanding the truly weird. It was a hoax. They knew less than he did, and that scared them a bit. He could taste their fear like a bee did. He knew it instinctively, the way a dog knew you were terrified of its bite. He'd warned them once about trying to jail him. He'd never needed to warn a second time.

His polished work boots made no sound as he thumped along the sidewalk, passing in and out of the deep shadows. His ears perked like radar, seeking any sound in this increasingly odd landscape. The only thing he knew was that sound wasn't working right now. And it wasn't just him. A teenager in a fiery street racer was fiddling with his radio while the cop behind him flashed the blues and reds. Neither had noticed the silence yet, but they would soon enough. It was time to get the hell out of the immediate area, Kris thought quickly. Something was going down, and he didn't want nothin' to do with it. He quickened his pace, glancing both ways unconsciously as he crossed the wide avenue. There were a couple cars coming this way, lights piercing the darkness between streetlights like lances. They hadn't noticed yet either, or maybe it didn't extend that far. Glancing ahead, he noticed another misty pool surround the base of a tree. The lower half of the trunk had become invisible, encased in the deep purple and black within the mist's core. The imperceptible sounds jarred his spine once more, the feline death yowl still dragging along. He knew the sound was there, though his ears didn't really hear it. Kris skidded to a stop, his boot splashing noiselessly in the gutter. He was unable to tear his eyes from the formless phenomena, nerves in his arms itching to fire once more. As he watched, the miasma engulfed a brown squirrel on a branch. There was no cry of pain, no startled chattering; It just wasn't there any longer, replaced by a formless curtain with silvery fingers.

The last time this had happened, an entire block was engulfed. There was nothing on the news about it; no anchormen getting the exclusive. But he knew. He always knew.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm A Lemon!

I couldn't resist having fun with the title. Anyway, Jenna has granted me the honorable Lemonade Stand Award. I was supposed to post this yesterday, but oh well.

So what does this award mean to me? Well, for one, it means somebody is actually reading and enjoying this stuff - which is really cool. And that it came from Jenna (a fun author in her own right) is also cool. I am a stickler for the rules (sometimes) so here goes:

  • Post the award on your blog

  • Let them know who gave it to you and link

  • Nominate ten other blogs (See Below) and link to them (Ditto)

  • Let your nominees know that they've received the award (Yep, I'll tell them).

Wow, I have to choose ten blogs? This is really difficult:

I've got to put props out to KLo. She's too cool and always he'pful with the advice.

Andrea is my next choice, another great author and cool person.

Lost Wanderer is a great bud, so I have to include her.

Christy is a great resource, a fount of knowledge for us aspiring authors.

Michelle over at The Surley Writer (which of course she rarely is) helps more than she knows.

Of course I have to include Elana, the writing challenge organizer. She is awesome.

Jenn is another talented writer I have to include.

Lastly, I have to include Rebecca. She was one of the first I'd met on here, and she's a great person.

Honorable mention goes to my bud The Screamin' Guppy. Jenna got to her first, but she's my Diet Coke-drinkin' companion so I have to list her.

I don't have 10, but close enough huh?

Review of Evensong

Evensong by M.L. St. Sure is a compelling book that tells the tale of Christina Cross, a young woman living during World War II who struggles to find her way and changes in ways she never would have anticipated. She does not end up where she thought she should be, but the experience is not one to miss. The imagery and heart-wrenching story is delivered exquisitely, and I highly recommend you give it a read-through. Before I go further with the review however, this is your warning that there may be slight spoilers.

Christina's family live on a poor farm in Missouri, but she remembers when they used to be better off in Austria, and she exhibits embarrassment or revulsion for her father's choices. She thinks he is beneath her, that he should have been smarter and kept them in the lap of luxury. Her family deals with poverty and strife, but Christina cares only for her sister Nicolette. Changes come quickly to her life, and she is forced to deal with responsibilities she may not really be ready for. Leaving home seems the only real choice to her, and that choice sends her on a path of growth. She is naive in some ways, and her choices reflect that often. Eventually she finds herself in Europe, right at the beginning of Hitler's war to recreate humanity. War has a way of changing people however, and Christina learns that firsthand. Her father was changed by it dramatically, and Christina faces challenges she cannot avoid. Her sister Nicolette - who has come along for the ride - is affected by the choices Christina makes, and her life also takes a dramatic twist. Christina starts out the book as a child, but by the end she has grown beyond her years, disabused of many of her naive imaginings. The journey through her experiences is incredible, and the history detailed along the way will make you cringe at times. Its unbelievable that some of these things could have happened, but stories like this one bring them to light in a very personal way.

I've purposely avoided being very specific about the book, because I feel its a path everyone should take without pretext. I want you all to get caught up in the stress and changes of Christina's life. I want you to find yourself lost among the pages as I did. If you'd like to know more about the content of the book, Brian at The New Author reviews it in a slightly different (but well written) way.

What Kind Of Writer Am I?

I recently purchased the Ebook by the ubiquitous Authoress called Agent: Demystified, and I read through it immediately. One section that struck me was a question she posed. What kind of writer are you? She broke it down into two types: writers who view writing as a business and writers who write because they have to. I'm not doing her book justice of course, because she says it much more eloquently than that, but thats the gist. To expand on the categories though, its like this. Writers that view writing as a business are doing so to get published. Thats the goal. The alternative is to be a writer for whom writing is a necessity absolute. This is the writer that must write every day or they feel ill. This writer must write as much as they must breathe oxygen.

I marvel at the "must write" writer, because I am the other type. I do enjoy writing, don't get me wrong. And I will attest to moments where I have had to sit down and write until I get it all out. I am so envious sometimes however, of the writer that must write in order to feel whole. Sometimes I wonder if I'm missing that aspect of personality, that drive that separates the two groups definitively. From Authoress' perspective, us "business writers" are better off in some ways because we are able to approach the business aspect of being a writer easier. That might be true. I definitely do see the merits of viewing my writing career as just that - a career. But I wonder what it would feel like to be driven mad by the need to write constantly. If you haven't picked up the Ebook, I highly recommend it. Whether you're a long time veteran of the industry or a newbie, its a worthy tome.

Which type of writer are you, a writer capable of treating it as a business or a writer joined at the hip with their muse? If you're able to merge the two, you're probably doing pretty well for yourself.

Monday Musings

Have you sat down and knew you wanted to write something, but didn't know where to begin? Thats where I'm at this morning. I have ten billion words, phrases, and imagery floating around in my skull and not sure where I'm going with it, so bear with me.

I am going to do a few separate posts today, because there's alot going on. My book review of Evensong will be posted in just a few, and I am waiting (anxiously) for my copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (by Jamie Ford) to arrive in my hot little hands on Wednesday. I'll be reviewing that one shortly as well. Jamie (should I call him Mr. Ford?) has graciously agreed to allow me an interview regarding this book, so keep your eyes open for that sometime next week. I picked his book as my next must-read for a reason. Its his debut novel, and its on the New York Times Best Seller's List (as if you didn't know, right). In my continuing struggle to be an exceptional author, he's obviously someone I can learn from.

I'm going to start a short story, in addition to my current WIP. For one thing, I have moments when I really want to write, but I'm not in the right "zone" to continue with my WIP. I don't want to lose the energy, so I'd like something else I can work on. There's also the whole idea that maybe I can find somewhere to publish said short story, which wouldn't be half bad either.

Lastly I'd like to say thanks to everyone who stops by to comment. On the whole, the community of authors, agents, editors, etc is really fun to to be a part of. I've gotten so much good advice, read so many interesting perspectives, and have learned a ton over the last few months. Hopefully I've contributed as much good to others' sites as has been contributed to mine.

Oh yeah, Jenna has been kind enough to bestow upon me the Lemonade Stand Award. I'll put something up individually about the award, but thank you. Your words are heartfelt and appreciated.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Here Comes Draft 2

I sat down this afternoon and took a completely different perspective on my story. My hopes are that this new opening will have a bit more impact and hook the reader a great deal more. It feels pretty good, and the story is coming along in this different vein rather well. I got over 1000 words done, and I have some new ideas on how to tie everything together, including how to tie it into the old words in draft 1.

On another note, I'm writing a review of the book Evensong by M.L. St. Sure, which Brian at The New Author has offered to publish on his site. So keep your eyes peeled, because I should have it to him tomorrow. I am going to see if I can manage an interview with the author, but we'll see if I'm lucky enough to do that. What I can say (without saying too much) is that this book is incredible, one you must read. I also found alot of really good techniques in it that I intend to learn from to improve my own writing.

That last statement is interesting when I think about it, because my reading techniques have changed a bit since I started writing. I have always enjoyed reading, but I haven't usually noticed sentence structure or use of imagery. I enjoy what good authors do of course, but lately I've noticed that I go back of things and take a good look at how the imagery is formed or how an author writes. Dialog is one area where I pay attention more, since this is an area I feel really weak. Anyway, I won't stay on my soapbox any longer (see, I am working on concise writing). Its a good start to another week in the writer's challenge, and I'm back in the zone. Good luck to all of you who challenging yourselves as well.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Making A Difficult Decision

Tonight I was working on my WIP and I came to a very clear conclusion: I am lost. My storyline has become confused and foggy at best, and I have no real clear way to get to the end. I already know that I have huge plot holes, I'm missing extremely important chapters for character development, and my beginning is nowhere near intriguing enough to capture a reader's attention.

With all of this in mind, I have chosen to stop working on draft 1 (despite the fact that I have not reached a point where I can type "The End"). What I HAVE done that is good is I spent a great deal of time creating an Outline of the book. Its not completely detailed, but it is alot more than I had before, which was nothing at all. I am going to shelve draft 1 and begin carving out draft 2 instead. There is alot of good writing I have created so far, but its jumbled and mishapen. I did not reach my writing goal for today (I only wrote 622 or so words), but I will make up for that tomorrow. So now I'm going to sit back and let the ideas stew for a while, think deep thoughts about where I need to go, and start anew tomorrow. Am I crazy for doing this? I have no idea, but I'm sure time will tell. One thing I've learned from all this however, is to have a much more organized process from the get-go. An outline in the beginning would have saved me alot of pain, and my writing probably would have been much better. Oh well, this is one lesson I will never forget. Any thoughts? At this point, I would welcome any other perspectives and advice.

Trained Writer Or Merely Inspired Muse?

One question that pops into my brain from time to time is regarding training versus inspiration. I am an untrained writer. What I mean by that is this: I have never taken any classes in writing (creative or otherwise) beyond the usual classes I was forced to slog through in high school. Well, I was forced to take an English composition class in college as well, but lets face it - it wasn't really that difficult nor was it truly useful in the general sense.

I've seen other bloggers talk about writer's conferences and seminars where we can learn more about our craft, hone it to a razor sharp edge. There are also many aspiring and published authors who have an extensive educational background in English composition or creative writing. Credentials are tossed around like Jolly Ranchers in a parade. To be quite honest, there are moments when I find myself admiring these people who have "known" for the majority of their lives that they wanted to write. They have the bug, and they've had it for a very long time.

So the question I pose is a one of pure opinion (since I'm sure examples can be shown either way). Does good writing come from the voice within you, irrespective of your training? Assuming a basic understanding of sentence structure, grammar, and word choice, does an author need to have a Master's degree in order to create truly good writing? Or can good writing come from someone among the "uneducated" masses? And how much emphasis should be placed on education beyond a general English class?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

WIP Writer's Challenge Totals - Week 1

Well, one week has gone by and I've managed to write every day. I had set a goal to get 500 words per day, and I'm very proud to announce I SLAMMED that goal to shreds. On only one day did I fall below 1000 words (I only managed 708 that day), which is just awesome. I would never have imagined I could write 1000 words in a day, let alone for an entire week. The grand total I've managed to create is 8220 words! That brings my WIP up to a grand total of 42,923 words completed. Holy Cow! Just typing that number sends chills down my spine. The first draft is just about completed, and then I have to go back to doing research because there is so much I have yet to add. I have to re-do the 1st chapter in a very big way, because many helpful people have pointed out major flaws that need to be fixed.

Week two for the writing challenge has begun today, and I am setting myself a higher goal of 1000 words per day. I know I can do it, and I want to continue to challenge myself and get this book ready. I will be honest; its been incredibly difficult to change my habits, sit down, and just write every day. I am not used to this (well, I guess I am now), but I know that this is what I have to do if I want to hone my craft and become an exceptional author. Everyone in the Writer's Challenge has been incredible with their support, with working on their own goals, and just being a great group of people. Thanks to everyone, and hopefully you'll all keep posting the huge numbers you've managed all last week. Lastly, thanks go once more to Elana at Mindless Musings for starting this challenge. I might have been able to get in this mode by myself (maybe), but you started this and helped me get off my duff. Keep checking back everyone; I plan on keeping to this goal until I have finished my WIP completely. Who knows, maybe I'll be writing 2000 words per day at some point. I can't imagine doing that much, but I didn't imagine being able to do this many either. Everybody stand up and do a little shimmy shake. I know I will.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Thanks to Elana over at Mindless Musings, I'm of a mind to post a teaser from my WIP. So here's a short something for everyone to enjoy.

"I am dying of cirrhosis" Joe stated matter-of-factly. The immediate concern on Frank’s face prompted him to continue, "Oh don’t feel bad for me. I’ve done it to myself, years and years of drinking the worst liquor, anything to pull me down into numbness." He took a breath, sat up a bit straighter, and said, "I haven’t had a drop though in over a year. When they told me….well I guess that was the bucket of water I needed to sober up."

"Do you know how long you have?" Frank said, clearly feeling bad for the man. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I’m on borrowed time as it is, Frank", Joe replied. "I’ve lived a lot longer than I ever should have. Hell, I’ve out-lived a lot of people I used to know. I checked once, thinking that maybe I could beg forgiveness in exchange for some medical care. But I guess now I’m ready, for whenever that time comes. I miss my Francine, and I’m more than ready to see her again."

Frank sat there just staring at the poor soul, not even sure what an appropriate thing to say would be. The waitress came by and refreshed their coffee, leaving the bill on the table. Finally Frank said, "What can I do Joe? Tell me. I don’t have a lot, but I’ll help if I can." A smile creased his weary face and Joe just replied "Nothing. Like I said, I don’t take handouts. And since I’m on the last leg of the trip, there’s no way to pay you back." With that, Joe took another sip of his coffee and moved to get up.

"Joe, wait a…."

"No Frank…. No!" Joe cut him off. "If you want to help somebody, pick someone a bit younger with more to live for. Me, I’m ready to go. If you remember me when I’m gone, that’s fine. But don’t go trying to get me in debt. I don’t need that on my soul at the end. Thank you for the lunch." Without another word, Joe turned his back on Frank and shuffled out the door.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Limited Writing

I stumbled on an interesting post that (after much discussion about the nature of talent in writing) included a challenge. The challenge issued was to write a description of a photo she provided using ONLY 30 words. One of my worst traits (yes I'm aware of it) is my lack of ability to write concisely. As any of you who have steadfastly read this blog knows, I can go on and on and on about a subject at great length. In fact, I'm certain I was told to get to the point on one of my posts. Well, never let it be said that I would let a challenge go unanswered. I did post a comment on her page with my entry. I will admit however, that trying to be truly creative AND succinct in the same instance was really difficult for me. It highlights an area where I need to work a bit harder, that of concise writing. Okay, I'm admitting it again. I need to go to a "lengthy writers anonymous" meeting.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stunned At My Progress

The first thing that hit me when I dropped by here this evening was how many followers and visitors I've had since I started this adventure. I can't say enough about how encouraging it is to have you all stop by, even if its just for a moment.

I'm still working hard on my writing challenge, and I've managed to complete over 1000 words a day consistently so far. I still need to do my writing for this evening (yep, I left it until the last minute), but I'm sure that I'll be able to meet my goals. I had pledged to only do 500 words a day, but if I keep up this pace for the rest of the week, I'm going to up my goal to 1000 for the rest of the 3 weeks. That way I will keep challenging myself and keep the pace of my writing going strong.

I received a copy of the book Evensong by M. L. St. Sure that I won in a contest on The New Author. I will be writing a review on this book soon, and Brian of The New Author has indicated that he would be interested in posting it on the site. I'm really excited at the honor of being able to provide content for this exceptional site. I'll let everyone know when I'm finished with it so you can go check it out. The premise of the book is very intriguing, so I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Slammed It, First Day

For those who have been keeping track, I just started a Writer's Challenge yesterday. My goal is to hit 500 words a day. After I sat down for about an hour or two, I was able to crank out a phenomenal (to me at least) 1436 words. I was blown away. If I manage to keep up that pace for the next 30 days, I'll most likely be done with my first draft by the end of the month.

I am so jazzed about this though. When I was writing yesterday, I was just electified. The fingers were crawling over the keys without much thought at all, and somehow the story just made its way onto the page. This challenge has really been a true motivator. So keep cheering for me. I really do appreciate everyone's support and encouragement.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Writing With Friends

A fellow blogger - Elana over at Mindless Musings - has issued a writer's challenge. Since I've had trouble getting motivated about my WIP, I decided this might just the impetus I need to get busy. The idea is that we all aim for 500 words a day. I have volunteered to join the crowd, and its apparent that alot of other writers feel my pain. The list of participants for this endeavor has grown to a respectable length. Now I just have to put up a word count here, so I can keep track of my progress.

Another motivator I have found is a writer's conference that will be coming to Denver this September. Despite that fact that I have so much going on, I have set myself a goal to have a completed final manuscript by then. I've never gone to anything like this before, so I'm really excited and nervous at the same time. So assuming I get my final draft ready, how does one prepare to attend these things? Is there a dress code? Are jeans a faux pas? So many questions, so much research I'll have to do before then. First, its time to get cranking on today's 50o words. Thanks for the motivation Elana.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cutting A Swath

Peter tightened his grip on the haft, narrowed eyes scanning the open field for his adversary. Seeing nothing, he stepped carefully over the crumbling rock wall, his footing as unsure as his belief that the path forward was safe. He examined the ground ahead, looking for clear signs but finding mass chaos instead. The pale wild grass had been stomped down in all directions, both from cavalry as well as foot soldiers, and he could not make out a distinct track to follow. Peter knew there was still a foe here however, because they had fought just a while ago and he had wounded the man.

To his right, he could hear a soft groan - a fellow soldier lying somewhere nearby. Moving quietly, he made his way over to the poor soul, his eyes still scanning in all directions. The soldier's short blonde hair was matted on one side with fresh blood, the head wound oozing slightly. A battered helm lay a few feet away, sporting a deep dent from an unlucky hit by a maul. Peter glanced down, crouching a bit lower to examine the man. He knew him well - this was his brother-in-law Tomas.

Turning fully, Peter leaned down and whispered for Tomas to be quiet. The man didn't acknowledge his words however, his eyes closed in pain. There was an additional wound Peter could see below his rib cage, a long slice that cut through mail, cloth, and the whitening skin beneath. Without immediate aid, Tomas would die. Peter knew that, knew it in his soul. He also knew there was no help to be had. His sister's husband would not be returning today, nor any day after.

Suddenly from behind him, a savage bestial roar erupted. Peter whirled, jumping back quickly to avoid the axe blow aimed to cleave him in two. The massive blade struck the ground between Tomas' outstretched legs instead, missing both men by inches. Peter began to circle to the right, intending to lead his foe away from Tomas; the enemy too often killed the wounded on sight out of disgust apparently.

Sizing his opponent up, he could see the man towered over him by at least a foot. This beastman was a mass of battle scars, his biceps bulging as he ripped the axe free and hefted it once more. His limp was more pronounced now - a lucky stab Peter had managed to get in before retreating. Peter was no coward, but this foe was a monster. He'd needed to regroup, and he knew the bastard would chase him down eventually. The thirst for battle this beast's kind shared was unquenchable, which left only one alternative; Peter would have to kill him, even if it meant doing so piece by piece.

He assumed his usual battle stance, muscles tense but relaxed at the same time. His sword was held low, the point inches from the ground out in front of him. With a grunt, the beastman began to limp in his direction, ignoring the wounded Tomas for a moment. Peter counted silently, watching the man's stride and timing his strike. In a rush, the limp became a charge as the man swung the axe for his head. Peter ducked quickly, the stroke brushing past his close-cropped hair, and his sword found its mark in the brute's right side.

A scream of fury and pain erupted from the warrior as he lurched backward, pulling himself off the slim blade. He stood unsteadily on his feet however, gathering what strength remained.

"Die, you god-forsaken demon!", Peter yelled viciously. He stood back once more, waiting for the charge and yet wondering how the man could remain upright. Only hellspawn could possibly survive this long. Judging the moment to be right, he feinted to the right and danced to his left. His blade moved like a hornet, stinging deeply into the brute's uncovered neck. A bright torrent began to flow, and finally the invader fell forward to slam heavily on the muddy earth.

Without making sure he was dead, Peter rushed back to Tomas' side, praying that there was a possibility of saving him somehow. Tomas lay there gasping and gurgling, blood flowing freely from the wound in his side. After a short moment, Peter stood regretfully and closed his eyes.

"Save a place for me brother", he breathed as he plunged his blade into the man's heart. A tear slid down his cheek slowly, followed by a twin on the other side. He gazed out over the battlefield, not really seeing the dead lying haphazardly here and there. All he could see was his sister's careworn face, and with a muffled sob, he lowered to one knee to pray.

"God forgive me, and grant me the grace to help her live without your servant Tomas." It was long moments before he finally stood, sheathing his sword quietly as he started for home.

This was actually supposed to be a post about me cutting out 10K words from my WIP, but as with all my writing, it took on a life of its own. I had to cut a bunch from my WIP, because I had an epiphany. I had been searching and trying to craft an antagonist for my story, trying to create an external force for my MC to overcome. What I realized however - mostly because I can be blind sometimes - is that she already had her own personal antagonist to overcome. She has all the personal demons that put her in the position she is in, and this was really the story I wanted to tell in the first place. I'm glad I figured this out, and now I can begin anew telling that aspect of her story. I hope you enjoyed this meandering anyway though.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Momentum has begun once more

After my bout of inspiration this weekend, I was able to immediately crank out 500 or so words without even breaking a sweat. It was awesome. I had to stop though, because it was late and I had to get up very early yesterday morning. But despite the fact that my fingers were no longer dancing on the keyboard, the story continued to unfold within my mind as I played with each permutation, throwing away implausibilities and snatching the sparkly gems of insight.

Yesterday I was not able to continue getting things on paper, because I'm trying to study for an exam. But since I managed to write on Sunday, I don't feel so bad. I used to think that getting 1000 words a day would be impossible, but judging from how quickly I was able to create 500, I think that might be a manageable goal for me to aim for. I have wanted to get a schedule going, so that I can continue to write every day, and this latest burst of energy is just what I need.

With every step forward of course, there is usually at least one roadblock. As luck would have it, my LCD crapped out on me this weekend. Luckily I found a fairly cheap laptop a while back on EBay and have been able to use that. And since I'm a computer geek, my house (and its computers) is networked together, so I can access all my files, my first draft of my book, etc. I just don't get to sit in my comfortable chair at my desk, because my laptop doesn't fit that well there. I would have to move stuff around (i.e. push the keyboard way back, move the trackball), and I just don't want to do that knowing that I will have to put it back later. So I've been using the laptop for all my computing needs, because my kids have grabbed tightly to the other computer in our house and aren't letting go.

I also grabbed a copy of Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown. For those unfamiliar with the name (I can't imagine who would be), he wrote the controversial book, The Da Vinci Code. I'm not one to pay attention to the hoopla surrounding his books, but I do appreciate the quality of his writing. In short, I enjoy them a lot. I leave it to the ignorant masses to decide whether he is trying to destroy the institution of the Catholic religion or not.

So far, this prequel book is engaging and quite suspenseful, despite the fact that I've only read a chapter or two. I've found myself really paying attention though, to what works in his writing and what doesn't. I used to just read a book to read it, but I now find myself admiring the good writing and learning techniques that hopefully I can use myself. Its a weird and interesting place to be for me, because I've never been this investigative about books before, instead being happy to just read through them.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Inspiration From Unlikely Sources

Its really fun when inspiration hits me. I can be sitting in traffic, browsing the 'Net, or just watching a tv show. And then it hits me. An idea, a spurious thought out of nothing. The electricity of the idea resonates throughout me, and I can't get it put down on paper quick enough.

Such a thing happened to me yesterday evening as I was playing Rockband 2 with my son. A certain band came on with a certain song, and like magic, the idea for my character change in A Moment To Breathe leaped into my head. It was amazing and exciting, and I was quickly wishing the song we were playing was over so that I could crank open the laptop and get the idea down immediately. I calmly advised my son that I would need to stop playing, but inside I was boiling over with energy and anticipation of where I could go with things.

Before I knew it, I had crafted over 500 words and the background for this newly re-done character was becoming reality. Since then, the storyline involving this character has advanced with a life of its own. Thoughts pop into my head about where to go with it at odd and random moments, and I have to remind myself to take mental notes of every detail (note to self, keep notebook on you from now on). No matter how many times it happens to me, I'm always amazed when inspiration strikes and the writer's juices really begin to flow. I don't know whats more amazing - the randomness of ideas coming from obscure or unexpected places or the level of energy it gives me to write. Either way, the outcome is good for both my writing and myself. My best stuff always comes when I am engaged like this, so the rule is to grab it by the horns and hold as long as possible. Excuse me while I get back to the literary rodeo.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Celebrating With Fellow Bloggers

One of my fellow bloggers - The Bookshelf Muse - is celebrating 50K hits. This is an astounding number as far as I'm concerned. That in itself is something to celebrate for sure. But whats really great is the contest being held to commemorate the noteworthy date. If you drop by the page and post a comment, you'll be entered in a contest to win a copy of the book "Waiting To Score" by J.E. Macleod. While I haven't yet read the book myself, I'm hoping to be the winner of said contest so I can. If nothing else, you'll find an informative and fun blog to check out. So drop by and tell them Eric said hi (not that they'll know who I am, but what the heck).

Minor Characters

As I was crafting the last post, a thought occurred to me about minor characters. This is an idea that really deserves discussion. When I'm writing, I find it sometimes a little too easy to start painting a image of a character in the reader's mind. I really enjoy breathing life into my characters, imagining how they would react to whatever situation they're in, and feeling their reality through the words I type.

The problem this presents however, involves building up these characters in such a way so that they support the story rather than distract from it. To expand upon this idea, everyone around us has a story. Even people who feel their lives are boring and of no consequence have a story to tell, if someone were willing to listen to it. This is good and bad. From our perspective as writers, this means that we have plenty of material to draw from as we create our fictional characters, to the point where our fictional characters feel as alive as the real people around us.

The bad aspect of this however, is that if we're not careful, every character can become a focal point without anyone being truly the main character of the story. This may be the point of the book, if for example you're writing a collection of stories revolving around a number of individual lives. If however, your goal is to describe the life of one or two people, your reader will lose focus as they try to follow too many paths.

So how do you deal with keeping the story focused while still allowing your minor characters to live and breathe in the minds of your reader?

Drastic Changes

I spent alot of time thinking about where to go with my WIP, particularly given the feedback from people on here as well as thoughts from the most important critic - my wife. I've decided that the best thing to do is to go back and change a character, and now I feel the angst other authors have expressed over their works. Tearing out the guts of a character that I have come to really enjoy writing about is just hell, not to mention that I haven't completely decided what type of person I am going to re-make him into. Ahhh, the fun of being a prospective author.

I have also decided to pick a set time in my day that I sit down to write. What I have been doing in the past consisted of writing when "inspiration" hit me, but that obviously is not going to get the book done. So its time I got things organized. I checked on the wordcount of my book (a new and foreign concept to me, counting words) and its just shy of 40K. Since I'm about halfway though the story, it should end up being somewhere around 80K for a first draft. Then I have to go back through and do some serious editing, since I have left alot of details out and have tried to concentrate on just telling the gist of the story. There are alot of minor characters that I have to decide what to do with, since I don't want to detract from the story any more than necessary.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Character Dilemna

I have a WIP called "A Moment To Breathe", and one of the main characters is a rather evil politician. The problem I am encountering is that I don't think I can actually take this gentleman down the path I was intending, because its just not realistic. What I had intentionally meant for him to do would not be plausible for my readers, even in the realm of fiction. In fact, I'm going to have to completely recreate who he is and what he will do. A politician isn't going to work here, so I have to change him to be something different.

One thing I have always enjoyed with my favorite authors is their ability to make things just realistic enough so that it makes me sit back and say, "Wow, I can imagine that happening". The story is still fictional, but there's enough reality thrown in to keep it within reach. So where do I go from here? I am already 40K words into this book, and I had not intended to do any editing until I at least finished the first draft.

I am fairly certain I can still use this character, though I'll have to change a great deal of background information on him as well as actions he's taken so far. Do I do that now? Or do I just omit adding anything more about him for now and edit later? Since this is my first time crafting something like this, I'm just not sure. If anyone has any thoughts, feel free to let me know.