A to Z Challenge 2013

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays

It's been a while since my last post, and part of that is because I'm pretty busy.  I'm working through my classes of course, but also just the usual busy times that life hands us.  The other part of that is because I've been thinking about this blog, thinking about where I want to go with it, and what I want to do.  Some good ideas have popped into my brain.

I am going to be absent for a bit longer however.  I'm on vacation from work after today, and I plan on spending the majority of the time with my wife and boys.  After the end of the year, I will be back with new ideas, new energy, and some changes that will help make this blog a great deal better.

I wish everyone Happy Holidays, a very Happy New Year, and I will see you all again in 2011.

Take care

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All Kinds of Things On A Wednesday

Yesterday's blog chain post really got the creative juices flowing.  I struggled to get my word count under the 100 word limit, but it was a fun struggle.  And by the time I finished, I felt like I'd written something really decent.  It's been a while since I've done that - felt like I've written something decent.  But man, did it feel good.  I got such a thrill out of it.  So thanks Michelle, even if it was partly torture.

On another note, I was driving to work and as usual, a great song came on just as I got there.  I didn't have time to listen to the whole thing, so I popped inside and looked it up on YouTube:

Granted, the video is something a fan put together, but I thought it went with the song perfectly.  Five Finger Death Punch (the band that wrote this song) might not be your usual cup of tea, but when they can come up with something as beautiful as this song, I figure they can't be that bad.  Of course, I'm a fan of their other stuff too so maybe I'm a little biased.

Then I stumbled on another Far From Home video (yeah, I get caught up in YouTube way too easily) and of course I had to check this one out:

Since I play piano, this one caught my attention right away.  I'd never heard of Jake Oken-Berg before, but I'll probably look up more music by the talented fellow.  He definitely knows how to tickle the ivories and sing some soulful words.

Last but not least, if you haven't signed up for the INSANE contest Beth Revis is hosting titled the Epic Contest of Epic.  You will not believe how much stuff there is to win, and the grand prize is...well, I can't even describe it adequately enough, so you need to rush over there and get your entry in.  If you haven't been following Beth on her journey as she sees her debut book Across The Universe published, you've been missing out.  In less than a month, this awesome story will be in the hands of the masses, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer author.  Beth is so cool, incredibly talented, and I'm really happy for her.  Now get over there and enter the contest.  You'll kick yourself if you miss this opportunity.

Oh, and any other great songs/books/artists I'm missing out on?  Fill up the comment boxes, ladies and gents!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blog Chain - The Devil Made Me Do It

There he is, ladies and gents.  This is the image of who must be driving me around these days (and no, I don't mean John Candy).  About this time of year, the little red devil perches himself on my shoulder and starts to whisper in my ear.

"Nah, you don't need to finish that up.  Ain't there somethin' on YouTube?"

"You'll get back to that scene, don't worry.  We got some games to play, remember?"

"Eh, that bad feelin' in your gut ain't guilt over your abandoned projects, my man.  It's just bad chicken from last night - trust me!"

The Procrastination Devil is one I fight on a continuous basis, but for some reason he really gets ahold of my ear as the year begins to wind down.  I find myself getting distracted much easier, and next thing you know I'm forgetting things.  This would be how I managed (for the second time no less) to forget my turn on the blog chain.  But I suppose late is better than never, so I'll put up my entry nonetheless.

Michelle M. has really decided to challenge us as the year comes to a close, with her question:

In 100 words or less, write a story using the words ride, post, soulless, local, dehydrator, girdle. Your story may take on any form you wish. The only two rules are 1. you can't simply list the 6 words; you must actually craft them into something creative, and 2. you must use ALL six of them.

I won't kid you;  this has really made me sweat, particularly since everyone else has done such a great job with it.  If you haven't read any of the previous entries on the chain, you need to work through them all.  There are some impressive writers here.  Despite my reticence however (that little devil is buggin' me to pass), I'll give it a go.

The ride past the post office brought bad memories; He still saw the twisted bodies, like old meat sitting too long in a dehydrator.  Tim usually avoided Main, but tonight it was the only safe path.  The feeble beam cast by his flashlight poked holes through the black curtains between streetlights, but it was barely enough to see by.  He glanced at the sign hanging askew, a ragged woman’s girdle covering one end.  The Local Pub now read as The Abyss, a bloody scrawl gleaming through the pale fabric.  He pedaled harder, ignoring the soulless groans coming from within.  

I was supposed to precede Sandra, but I have ended up posting after her anyway LOL.  Check out what she came up with though.  Actually, work your way through them all.  This has been the most fun AND difficult post I've had to write in a long while.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blog Chain - Books Are...Late, In My Case

Somewhere on the far end, water droplets fell with slow regularity.  Leftovers from a heavy rain, leaking through the cracked cement ceiling.  Not surprising that the cellblocks are in disrepair.  It's a full house and not enough of us get out these days.

"Psst.  Museman, you got dat writin' thing done yet?"

"The longer you stand there jackin' and jawin', the less I'll get done, ya numbskull.  Now get movin' before one of the Bulls sees ya."

"Warden Quinn's gonna have ya in the box for a month, you watch."

I turn to glare at him through the dirty bars, the light blue paint flaking off beneath his grimy grip.  I'm not sure threats will buy his silence, but I toss on my fiercest glare nonetheless.  "If she finds out from you, there won't be enough teeth left to identify the body."

"Ain't scared, boy.  You're already hung; you just ain't feelin' the noose yet."  His maniacal grin splits into cackles as he turns away, pushing his cart of books down the row.

He's not that far off the truth either.  If I can't come up with something legendary, that lady's gonna have my head.  It's okay though.  I got a plan, and I'm bettin' she won't expect what's coming.  I pull the folded sheet from beneath the bunk, my fingerprints staining the off-white page.

It is hereby declared that prisoner 254733 be moved to solitary confinement indefinitely unless he can answer the query posed by the illustrious Warden Quinn.  Any unsatisfactory response will be deemed insurrection and will serve to display why said prisoner is no longer fit for housing amongst the rest of his fellow inmates.

I glance at the stained and cracking wall across from my bunk.  I've carved my answer deep, made sure it'll be there 'til they tear this whole place down.  Then I reach to grab a paperback from the top of the stack nearby.  She don't have a clue just where I've been every night.  Fighting dragons, shoot-outs in some old Western town, even fell in love (or lust maybe) with a dark haired beauty.  Tonight's different though.  I finally found one that's gonna do the trick.  CassaStar.  It's my ticket outta here.

I ease up and walk to the bars, checking up and down.  Lights are out, but there's a full moon tonight and the pale lady is giving me enough to read by.  I sit on the bunk once more, the springs groaning against my weight, and I open to the first page.  A few moments later, the book falls to the floor.  Nothing left but my words on the wall.

Books are...escape.  That's right, Warden.  I escape every time I crack 'em open.  I been fightin' outside these walls.  I've worked as a cowboy, sailed on pirate ships, and even killed a few monsters.  Tonight's different though.  I'm gone, flyin' in outer space and I don't plan on comin' back any time soon.  You save that box for me if you like, but don't expect it to be filled tonight.

My last conscious thought is for M.H.   I hope she don't get chewed out 'cuz of me.  That evil genius Sandra got extra rations for her answer, but I knew I'd never come close.  This is my only chance.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back In The Saddle Again

I've been bucked off this horse more times than I can count at this point, but I don't care.  Much like a huge Texan fighting the evils of leafy green veggies, I refuse to give in.  I have successful passed my Cyberlaw class (happy dance, happy dance), and I have two blissful weeks of no homework before I launch into learning how to become a certified ethical hacker (there's something wrong with the idea of an ethical hacker, but anyway).

This means I have an opportunity to get back on the horse, get used to writing every day again, and somehow keep it up even after my class starts.  And I'm going to do it.  I may not have been able to do NaNo, but I CAN do this.

The next question is what will I work on.  I have an almost complete apocalyptic story (first draft anyway) that needs direction on the ending.  I also have my short story about a young man and the Fates.  I'm actually in the revision stage for this one.  And of course, I have a few other temporarily abandoned  stories that need my attention.  Plus I got a gem of an idea this morning while I was driving to work; the idea is a comical view into the life of this guy (so far unnamed) who would like to be more of a villain (with all the associated acclaim, cool factor, etc) but his attempts actually result in helping people rather than hurting them.

During my recent workshop fun with Jamie Ford, he stated quite emphatically that there really isn't a huge market for short stories these days.  While he could be wrong, it got me to thinking about my short story and the comments I got when it was critiqued during my short story class.  I think there is more to this young man and the Fates' effect on his life, so I may see about expanding the story into a full-blown novel.

And there we have it.  I may have been absent alot lately, but I'm a work in progress - just like the novels I'm writing.  Time to slap on the spurs once more and get back in the saddle again.

How is your writing going?  If you're doing NaNo, are you on track?  If you're not doing NaNo, are you trying to write every day too?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honor To All Veterans

I've been spending all day thinking about Veterans Day (particularly since I am one), and I realized I had not put up a blog post about it.  This is unacceptable, so despite a bit of a delay, here is my thoughts on this wonderful holiday.

For those new to the Muse, I am a U.S. Army Veteran.  It's been many a year since I served, but I was in the service for 3 years on Active duty and 2 more years on Reserve duty.  I was initially trained as a Russian linguist, but I later changed to become a cryptologist.  Then while I was in the Reserves, I changed once more to be trained in psychological operations (PsyOps).

Even though it's been over 20 years since I served last, I am still military to the core.  I get up early (even on weekends), I make my sons keep their hair cut short and clean-cut, and I still sometimes find myself marching somewhere as opposed to just walking.  To say that the military will forever be in my blood is an understatement.  While I might have been a dumb punk when I went in (and I fully admit that this is true in most respects), I came out a much better man and I honestly believe I would not be as successful as I have been in all areas of my life had I not served.

For those of us in the U.S., we are lucky in that service in the military is a choice.  A privilege.  In many other countries around the world, this is not so.  It's also interesting that there was a survey done recently regarding how well people like their jobs, and the military was right up there at the top.  This speaks volumes for how much respect soldiers have for what they do and why they choose to do it.  In a society where so many people abhor the job they might be stuck with, soldiers would very likely choose the same occupation again if given the choice.

It might surprise some of you, but in order to be counted a veteran, you don't actually have to go to war.  You don't have to be injured either.  You just have to have served at least 3 years on Active duty.  This might seem like it cheapens the idea of who should be considered a veteran or not, but it really doesn't.  This idea is important to me personally, because I was lucky not to have ever been involved in a war.  Don't get me wrong; I would have done my duty just like any other soldier, but given what war sometimes does to a man, I'm glad I did not have to.  I've never had to aim my rifle at another human being, nor have I ever had to take a life.  I count myself blessed because of that fact, and I have a great deal of respect for all my fellow soldiers who have had to deal with those type of circumstances.

I used to question whether I should count myself among the honorable veterans who have placed themselves in harms way for our country, for the ideals we believe in.  I don't question anymore however, thanks to words that a friend told me.  He said, "You chose to stand up and do your duty, whatever that meant.  You signed on the dotted line when so many others didn't.  And you did so knowing that there was always the possibility you'd have to face war head on.  You're as much a veteran as anyone else."

He was right.  For every single one of us who have stood up and said yes, I will be a soldier and do my duty, there are countless numbers of soldiers throughout the world that do not get to choose.  For every soldier that agrees to throw themselves in harm's way because of the ideals we Americans believe in, there are countless Americans who choose to enjoy the freedoms without earning their right to them.  And that's okay, because we soldiers know we're doing this for you as much as for ourselves.

Thank you for listening.   And thank you all veterans of the U.S. military, for choosing the path you have taken.  For those who haven't had the opportunity to serve or chose not to serve for whatever reason, understand that you don't necessarily need to thank me.  But you should thank a veteran somewhere.  We owe our honorable veterans at least that much.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blog Chain - Spontaneous Bouts Of Characterization

That's right Muse fans, you get a double whammy of posts today.  I couldn't skip Ten Word Tuesday, and it's my turn on the blog chain.  Today's question is brought to us by the ever-skilled Abby, who asks:

Where do your characters come from? And once they've been introduced to you, how do you get to know them?

This is an awesome question and a topic I like to discuss alot - characters.  I really enjoy noteworthy characters, and learning to create memorable characters is something I think about all the time.  But how do I come up with my characters in the first place?

I've tried following patterns of other writers, like those who watch the people around them and seeing potential characters from random strangers.  It just doesn't work for me.  I do wonder sometimes about people I see, like what they are doing and where they are going.  But when it comes to crafting a story around somebody like that, the muse clams up and refuses to budge.  I've also tried creating character sketches, or writing a description of my character; I get nothing compelling from that exercise.

No, in the end, I just create the characters as I go.  Sometimes I only have a hint of the person, a whisper of who they will become.  And as I write, they speak to me, drawing my fingers across the keyboard and across their lives.  Their various peculiarities unveil as we both walk through their respective stories, sometimes resulting in events that surprise us both.

As far as getting to know them better, I don't have any real techniques here either.  I've tried interviewing my characters, and sometimes I have some good success.  But on the whole, I've found my creative process works best when spontaneous bouts of characterization occur.  It is there that I feel closest to my characters, and it is there that I get to know them best.

If you haven't had a chance to read my predecessor the insightful Sandra's response, head on over.  Tomorrow, we can all expect to receive an equally interesting answer from the awesome Michelle Hickman.

Ten Word Tuesday - Inspiration

A single memorable moment can bring an avalanche of inspiration.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meeting Jamie Ford - AWESOME!

I finally got a moment to share my experiences meeting Jamie Ford in person.  Jamie was in Broomfield, Colorado on Saturday (a suburb on the outskirts of Denver), and he was conducting a writer's workshop in the morning as well as a presentation/meet & greet in the evening.  Since Saturday was my 18th wedding anniversary, I couldn't blow off the whole day.   I did manage to make it to the writer's workshop however, and I'm really glad I did.

First off, I could use a hundred adjectives to describe how cool it is to meet THE Jamie Ford but as I was thinking about it afterwards, one word in particular came to mind - gracious.  

Allow me to explain.  As I entered the library and headed towards the right conference room, Jamie saw me and immediately called me over to say hi.  He was cooler than words, and even though I might have been squealing like a starstruck teenager inside, he made me comfortable enough that I think I managed to maintain some kind of intelligent conversation.  He then jumped at the chance to sign my copy of his book before I could even ask.  Before I knew it, we were chatting along like two colleagues.

Yes, I know it's a huge stretch of the word considering I'm the aspiring writer and he's the bestselling author of a book in who knows how many languages at this point (not to mention it being optioned as a potential movie maybe).

So even though it's a stretch, it was awesome nonetheless.  After we headed into the workshop, Jamie launched into a presentation on how to get our writing past the slush pile and into the zone where agents are requesting partials (see Jamie, I bet you thought I wasn't paying attention).  And I have to say that what Jamie put out there was spot on and made perfect sense.  We went through an exercise by reading poorly written first pages that Jamie had pulled out randomly from a critique site, and it was incredibly useful.  

Oh, and guess what Shaun?  I plugged your book The Deathday Letter as a recent favorite book I really liked, mostly because it has stuck in my mind as a perfect example of good characterization.   So a whole room of aspiring and published writers got to at least become aware of your book (if they weren't already, that is).

The two hours of the workshop went by quicker than I realized, and then it was time to go.  I could have sat there all afternoon and gleaned knowledge from Jamie (assuming he had nothing better to do and my wife could forget that it was our anniversary LOL).  I had brought my camera to get a picture with Jamie, but after the workshop there were a bunch of people huddled around and I didn't want to push my way through.  

There was another author (Clare Austen) at the workshop, and she and I ended up chatting for a while outside anyway.  Then just as I was getting into my car, here comes Jamie out of the library.  Wouldn't you know, he waves at me as he's walking towards the parking lot.  I managed to stumble out with a "would you mind", and he was overly gracious once more.  The person walking with him took the camera and quickly snapped a couple photos for me.

No comments on my lumberjack shirt.  Yes, I realize my wardrobe could really use an update.  And Jamie's shirt is actually a bright red, though the sun (or camera) turned it more of a bright pink.  

Getting a picture was more than I was actually counting on, so thank you Jamie very much.  For taking the time mostly, but more than that, for being an inspiration in so many ways.  And for making it a memorable day.

To quote your own words:

"Wishing you more sweet than bitter"

It doesn't get any sweeter than this.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Feeling Left Out...And No Time To Think About It

If you haven't noticed, I did not put up any announcements about joining in on the NaNo fun that so many of my fellow bloggers are enjoying.  Yeah, a part of me really wished I could do it but unfortunately deadlines with school and lots of essays still to write dictate my schedule these days.  So instead I've snatched tidbits of time to sneak peeks at everyone else's posts about their progress.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm very happy that so many of you have decided to do NaNo.  While it's not for everyone, I found it to be a great tool for getting a story started and blasting through a first draft.  I'm just feeling envious.

On another topic, I will soon be the envy of everyone else (okay, maybe not everyone but possibly a couple of you). Saturday morning, I'll be in an awesome writer's workshop with the one and only Jamie Ford!

Oh yeah, oh yeah!  Even though that day is our anniversary, my loving wife has agreed to grant me two hours of non-anniversary time.  Either she really understands how HUGE a fan I am of Jamie or she's planning on subjecting me to chick flicks and quality time for the rest of the day.  We're a pretty boring couple though.  I asked her the other night what she wanted to do for our anniversary and her response was less than earth-shattering.  She just wanted to go have dinner somewhere nice.

Yep, after 18 years of wedded bliss (not every single moment mind you, but enough of them), we don't really need much from each other besides time together.  And though I might make fun of my wife's choice of chick flicks at any opportunity, I guess I don't mind sitting through a Sleepless in Seattle-esque movie.  After all, she puts up with my crazy writerly dreams.

I just hope when I meet Jamie, I don't stumble over my feet and make myself look like an idiot.   You know how it is.  You see a celebrity on television and think how awesome it'd be to meet the person, but when you're there in the flesh, all common sense seems to evaporate from even the best of us.  Jamie seems to be a very down-to-earth guy though, so perhaps he'll forgive a bit of personal excitement on my part.  I'm taking my copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet too, with the hope that I can beg a signature or something.  I'll try to get a picture too and post it here.

Anybody else going to a workshop, meeting a famous writer, doing something we can be envious of?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Thoughts - Not As Old As The Number Indicates

Just a couple days ago, we celebrated my oldest son's 17th birthday.  My wife had a harder time of it than I did, saying she felt really old.  Here I am almost 40, and yet I have difficulty feeling old.  I just don't see 40 as being old, in spite of the fact that so many people seem to see that particular milestone as a big deal.

One aspect of getting older I notice all the time is my inability to remember things from days long past.  For example, I tried to picture my son when he was a little guy, and I drew more blanks than an old Western action flick.  Thank you for pictures we've taken over the years.

I thought back to what our family was like when we first had the little tyke, and it amazes me that we survived.  When our first son was born, I was working as a rental sales agent at Avis Rent-a-car.  Since sales have never been my forte, I only made the basic wage - not the sales incentives we got from helping renters purchase the insurance.  Yeah, don't get me started on what a scam that is.

Anyway, I am stunned when I think about the fact that our little family survived on only $800 a month.  That's net, not gross.  Our rent was like $375, so that meant one whole check paid for it.  The other check then had to cover food, diapers, formula (since my picky child wouldn't take anything but the most expensive can available), gas, etc.  And that had to be spread over the entire month.   I'd love to tell you we survived it without incident, but the truth is, we screwed up our finances and credit more times than I can count.  Don't pay this bill so we can buy diapers.  Don't pay the phone bill so we can have groceries.  Somehow we managed not to get evicted every month, but don't ask me how.

Though there have been some challenges we've faced over 18 years of wedded bliss, I have to acknowledge that my family has seen more blessings than troubles.  And through it all, I've somehow managed to keep my attitude more positive than negative.  Which is where I'm going with all of this.  Bear with me, I'll get there.

I'm headed to 40 next April, and I still have to grin.  I've got a 17 year old son and an almost 12 year old son (and I couldn't be prouder of them both), a beautiful and wonderful wife (who is still the most selfless, caring person I know), and we're all still together.  I have the capability and opportunity to work towards my Masters degree, which is no small thing.  I even find time now and then to enjoy a good video game - a definitive indicator that I've yet to grow up in some ways LOL.

At this point, 40 is just a number.  Maybe when I hit 50 I'll feel old, but I hope not.   I kind of like staying a kid at heart.  That way I have an excuse for why I refuse to grow up and join the rest of you adults out there :)

As an FYI, I may or may not be posting over the next four days.  The fam and I are headed down to Santa Fe, NM for a small vacation.  I will still have my laptop since the pressures of homework never stop, but I don't know that I'll remember to put up any posts.  I hope everyone has a great weekend and I'll see you all when I get back.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meeting New Authors...Through Their Works Anyway

     If you've read through the awesome answers by my fellow blog chainers (and the chain is not quite finished either, so stay tuned), you may notice something.  While some of us picked some higher profile authors (i.e. Poe, King, etc), some of the comments I've gotten indicate authors I've never heard of before.  And I can imagine that the rest of the chain will probably include more authors I'm not aware of.

     I have to hand it to Michelle, because she managed to come up with a question that has re-invigorated our chain with unique perspectives (not to take anything away from previous entries, of course).  I'm always interested in reading new authors, if for nothing else than to experience literature from a different perspective.  I've not been educated on the classics that so many of my fellow writers seem to be aware of, and sometimes I feel like I'm falling behind on my knowledge of excellent books and writers; there's just too many good ones out there.

     A fellow blogger friend of mine (and I'm proud to call him a friend) by the name of Matt Conlon has recently started writing non-fiction articles, and although I've been chatting with Matt for a while, I hadn't had the opportunity to actually read his stuff before.  After reading his articles, I was struck by the skill he displays and I'm sure his fiction writing is just as enjoyable.

     Then there's the awesome Alex Cavanaugh, whose debut book CassaStar just recently became available (I haven't picked up my copy yet, mostly because I'm hoping to win one).  I'm really looking forward to reading this, particularly because Alex shared a tidbit with us early on and I've been anxious to read more ever since.

     And of course there's the awesome book I read recently called Cinders, by the incredibly talented Michelle Argyle.  Michelle is part of the trio known as The Literary Lab, and Cinders is her foray into the world of self publishing.  Based upon my own copy, I'd say not only is the writing superb but the book itself is beautiful.

So what's my point (other than putting up a link-filled post and bragging about books I've read or am going to read)?  I guess my point is that meeting new authors (through their works) is something I enjoy, and I just had to share them all with you.

What new authors have you read lately?  Which ones do you highly recommend?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blog Chain - Wanted...Dead Or Alive

Is it really that late in the afternoon?  And did I really forget that today was my day?  Yikes!  Sorry Michelle.

Yep, that's right author-fans, it's blog chain time and Michelle Hickman is the awesome creator of this edition's question:

If you could dine with any author, and I do mean any whether alive or dead (yes, we're going into the realms of time travel - but hey, we have science fiction writers on this chain so we can always ask for them to write up the time machine specs), who would you want to dine with? And if you can ask them for advice on one writing element you feel you might be struggling at, what would it be?

Wow, what a question.  This is a toughie, because their are so many good authors to choose from.  I'm going to take my queue from Michelle however and walk through how I came up with the right one (for me anyway).

I didn't seriously consider J.R.R. Tolkien (even though I'm a huge fan of his works) because I know I'd be stuck between complete awe of his ability and yet complete frustration at the lengthy description he tended to use.  Let's not even get me started on the Silmarillion.  So no, he wouldn't work.

One author I considered was Piers Anthony.  While perhaps not counted amongst the great authors of our time, when I was younger, the Incarnations of Immortality series was one that I read over and over and over.  But then I remembered what a travesty this guy has made of the Xanth series (dude, 27 books?  Starting a new - but similar - series with #28?  Are you freakin' kidding me?  Come up with a new idea fer cryin' out loud), and that pretty much knocked him out of the spotlight.

So I reserve the spot of honor (an honor for me, of course) for Stephen King.  I haven't loved every single book he's written (Gerald's Game, I'm looking at you) and yet other works of his (the holy grail known as The Stand) leave me dumbstruck at their majesty.  It's because of these extremes that I believe I could learn a mountain of knowledge from the guy, even in normal conversation.  He's had his highs and he's had his lows and he still manages to put out good stuff.

I honestly don't know what ONE question I could ask him; there's just so many things I would want to ask.  But if I were restricted to one (thanks alot Michelle.  What, does he have burly ogre bodyguards that clamp a iron plate over my mouth the minute I attempt a second question?), it'd have to be how to create the amazingly creepy aura that seems to pervade so many of his books.  He's a master at it, and someday I hope to achieve even a tenth of that.

That's all I have to say about that.  I'm following Michelle this round, so you can read what she had to say about her own question.  And tomorrow, expect wondrous things from our own awesome Margie Gelbwasser.

If you had to answer this question though, who would you choose and what would you ask?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blog Chain - Surely I'm Mistake-n

Before I get to the blog chain question, I need to tell you about the contest you better not miss out on.  The incredibly talented Alex Cavanaugh's book CassaStar is being given away in what has to be the awesomest-named (yeah, not a word but too bad) contest ever.  It's called The CassaStar "Pew Pew" Space Adventure Giveaway.  How cool is that name?  It's being hosted on the Scribbler To Scribe site, and you only have until the 19th to get in on it.

It's CassaStar, for crying out loud.  And Alex is going to sign it!  Does it get any better than that?  Get over there and enter right now.  I'll wait.

Okay, now that you're all signed up for the contest, I can proceed with answering the question posed by the ever-awesome Laura Diamond (yeah, how cool to have THAT last name):

Regarding your writing career, what’s the best mistake you’ve ever made and why?

I didn't have to think long and hard to answer this question, because the answer stares me in the face every day, reminding me what NOT to do.  When I first started this journey as a writer, I had a great story idea about a homeless woman and a guy that decides to help her.  My wife, my parents, and my friends were always telling me I should write something, and so that's what I did.  I sat down and started cranking out the pages.  Man, I was a writing whiz and the words were flowing effortlessly.  Okay, maybe not that easily, but I was making alot of progress and wrote almost the entire first draft.

I was flying high.  I'd written more words on this one project than I'd ever done before.   And all these people were saying how great a writer I would be.  So when a real writer friend offered to beta the story and give me some feedback, I was like, "Sure thing!"

What I got back was a body slam.  A wakeup call that said, "Hey stupid, you've forgotten all kinds of things that should really be basic to a story."

My mistake could be summed up in one word - Ego.

I thought I was a great writer prior to that point, and instead I learned quickly just how much I don't know.  I call it my best mistake because it altered how I view my writing, and how eager I am to learn how to write better.   After picking my bruised ego back up off the floor (and after a few days of self-reflection), I realized that while I do know how to write, I don't know it all and I have lots of room for improvement.  And this isn't a bad thing.  

Remembering how it felt to get slammed keeps me focused on writing well.  This mistake also reminds me to be open to learning new and better ways to improve my craft.  This is also a good thing.

If you haven't popped by my predecessor Sandra's blog, you need to check out her awesome answer (and the great song/video choice).  And tomorrow, expect to see an even better response from the talented Michelle McLean.

As for all of you, what is your greatest mistake as a writer?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fiction Writing Vs. Non-Fiction Writing

I'm currently embroiled in writing essays for my Cyberlaw class and I realized something about myself, so I thought I'd pause for a moment to blog about it.

As my fellow (and very talented) writer Christine can attest - everyone stop by and give her three cheers for the publication of her latest non-fiction book Emotional Intensity In Gifted Children - writing non-fiction is very challenging in its own way.  Or maybe she's a whiz at it and I'm just the one having difficulty.  It could very well be the latter.

In any event, I have been working on an essay regarding the Internet, applying law to it, and the inherent issues around concepts like trademarks and privacy.  It's difficult for me, but the reasons for the difficulties are both similar and dissimilar to my fiction writing.

The first - and most obvious - thing I notice is that I am terrible at agonizing over the right word.  No matter if I'm writing a thrilling tale about two lost teenagers in the mountains or if I'm writing a fact-based essay on the impact of jurisdiction on Internet laws, I stare at the blank screen deciding how to say what I want to say.  You'd think it'd be easier in an opinion paper, but since this is for a grade and I want to sound at least halfway competent, I choose my words carefully.  Then I backspace over a sentence here, a word there.

No, that's not exactly what I mean to say.  Delete.  Delete. Delete.  Dang-it, I don't even have one paragraph written.  Okay, where was I?

Oh yeah, I don't organize my non-fiction writing any better than I do my fiction.  Yep, I'm a pantster here too.  I can here all of you cringing, but trust me.  No matter how sporadic and undisciplined it sounds, I managed to make it through an entire Bachelors degree being this way.  I suppose I should have learned, but trying to organize a plan for an essay makes me cringe even worse than deleting the wrongly-chosen words.

Delete.  Delete.  Delete.  I suppose this is good practice for editing and revising.  Yeah, that's it.

Where these two styles are different however, is how the flow of the words happens.  With fiction, I can write and write and not worry one bit about how credible I sound (first draft, anyway).  One thing I cannot do with non-fiction however, is type something I know (or even suspect) to be incorrect.  It bugs me worse than a pianist playing an off-key note.  Or a book with dog-eared corners on the pages.   Grrrrrr.

Delete.  Delete.  Delete.  Is this getting old yet?  Heh heh.

It's interesting how many differences and similarities there are in these two distinctly different styles of writing.  Fiction is by far more enjoyable to work on IMHO, but I do agree with the necessity to be proficient in non-fiction as well.  The more capable we are in expressing ourselves in the latter, the better we'll be in the former.  Okay, that's enough distraction from homework.

How about you?  Do you find non-fiction enjoyable?  Do you approach it the same way you do fiction?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy Dance, Happy Dance

Everybody Happy Dance!

It's Friday, and since my presentation passed with no need for revisions, I've finished that class.  Woohoo!!

I took last night off (from school anyway) and did more enjoyable things.  Like revising my short story.  And playing games with my sons.  And not stressing about how much homework I still have to get done.

It's nice to take a day off every once in a while.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm fairly overburdened with way too many challenges.  Writing is currently taking a back seat (most of the time) to other more critical items, so while I'd like to make it a full-time gig that I do every day, it's almost impossible.  It's kind of ironic then that I consider finding time to write part of "taking time off".  It's work, but it's fun work.  It's a balmy summer day for my soul and mental health.

The other thing on my radar is NanoWriMo.   I seriously wish I was done with this class and could participate this year.  And who knows, if I finish up by the end of this month, maybe I still can.  Last year, it was really fun to do and it felt great writing every day towards that goal of 50K words.  I got close last year too (almost 36K words) before I had to stop.  I don't regret it though, because I was able to focus once more on school and graduate last December with my Bachelors degree.

Don't ask me why I decided to go back for more homework fun.

Rather than continuing to ramble, I'm going to wish you all a fun-filled weekend.  Me, I'm going to get some writing done and launch my assault on Cyber-Law on Monday.  Now play the Peanuts song again and Happy Dance wherever you are.  It's Friday, and Fridays were made for dancing with abandon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Moving Right Along

The lack of regular posts may be improved soon, as I finally have turned in a monster assignment for school.  Basically, it's a 14 slide presentation on how the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) affects the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and what needs to be done within the agency to be compliant with said legislation.  The assumption is that I'm an IT admin/supervisor in their IT shop (with an understaffed section) and I have to prove why we need more staff, since the requirements of FISMA are extremely demanding - particularly if your agency is way behind the curve with regards to security standards and guidelines.

The amount of research I had to perform for this assignment was astounding, and the material was both interesting from one perspective and boring from another.  Nothing makes research harder than tedious material, trust me.

I have uploaded my presentation to the testing and evaluation site my school (Western Governors University, Woohoo!) uses, and if I'm really really really lucky, I won't have to make any revisions.

Then I'll get to finish up the last class of this semester - Cyberlaw.  Yeah, another truly fun class.  I have to write something like 4 research papers, submit various things to other students to evaluate, and then have it all evaluated by the testing site.  All of this has to be done by Nov 15th, no less.

Nope, I'm not stressed.  Not.one.bit.

Time to put it into high gear and sprint to the finish line!  Thanks for stopping by, and I'll do what I can to post something as often as possible :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

How Can You Tell You're A Fan?

First off I'd like to say a big thanks to Elana Johnson.  Being a part of The Great Blogging Experiment was fun and I got a ton of people stopping by to comment, so that was also awesome.  Count me in anytime, Elana.

If you haven't been a longtime follower (and welcome to all of you who recently joined), I'm a huge fan of Jamie Ford.  Ever since I picked up his debut novel Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet, I've been following his blog, keeping track of what he's up to, waiting anxiously for his next book to come out.  I had the honor of actually interviewing him a while back and found out what a cool guy he is, good writing aside.

I missed the opportunity to get my copy signed when Jamie came through Denver, and I've been kicking myself ever since.  You can imagine my excitement then, when I read he's coming through once more on Nov 6th.  I double and triple checked his schedule to make sure I wasn't reading it wrong, but he is set to be at One Book Broomfield in Broomfield, Co (a burb on the outskirts of Denver).  He's hosting a Writer's Workshop (which hopefully I can manage to attend) and a author talk/book signing that evening.  I WILL be at one or the other.

Oh damn.  Then I remembered something very important.  Nov 6th is my wedding anniversary.  Yep, 18 years ago I asked (surprisingly I didn't have to beg) and she said yes and we're still happily together.  So my wife and I were laying in bed watching TV and I casually slipped it into conversation.

"Hey hon, I need to ask you a huge favor.  And feel free to tell me if you'd rather I didn't go.  Jamie Ford is having a book signing in Broomfield.   You remember, that awesome author I interviewed a while back?  It's on our anniversary hon, but it's the only time he's going to be here."

(Smile lovingly and hold my breath)

I got it all out in one quick breath rather than give her tons of time to think it through.  I mean, it's our anniversary.  I could see her calculating just how important it was to her.  Her eyebrow raised, and I'm sure she was deciding how hard it'd be to get me committed.  Or killed.  Finally she said,

"Well, since it's not our 20th, I suppose you can go.  As long as it's not all day long.  And you better have a really large diamond prepared for my finger when the 20th does come around."

I nodded like an eager puppy.  Anything you say, baby!  Yeah, my wife loves diamonds and I do my best to keep her happy with 'em.  It's easier than trying to afford the cherry red Corvette she'd rather have.

How can you tell if you're a true fan of an author?  When you're willing to risk life and limb from a spouse to attend a signing.  Yep, I guess I am that big a fan.  Anyone else done something similar to see their favorite author?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Great Blogging Experiment - Writing Compelling Characters

I know it's Friday and that usually involves nonsensical fun, but Elana Johnson has inadvertently interrupted the schedule with...


It's not too bad though, because while we won't be laughing at insane cats (okay, I couldn't resist the picture) or watching cool book trailers, we will be discussing cool writerly things.

So what is the Great Blogging Experiment?  Basically there are a ton of bloggers who are putting up posts about a particular topic, and the interesting aspect of this is seeing how everyone addresses the same idea.  To paraphrase what Elana's already said, it's probable that all these posts will be different because all the bloggers are different.

The question posed is this:

How do we write compelling characters?

While there are general similarities I think everyone could agree on, there is an aspect of this that depends on the writer.  What is compelling for one person may not be for another.  For example, I enjoy everyman characters that find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.  I like initially unremarkable individuals that become (or reveal themselves to be) quite remarkable as the story progresses.  When I choose a main character (or they choose me, to be honest), more often than not these are the types of characters that appeal.

What I have at that point however, is a vision of the character in my head.  The character is compelling to me, and it's my job as a writer to bring this character to life such that everyone else finds them compelling as well.  How can I do this?

The first (and most important) thing to do is write the character as honestly as possible.  When we're describing a good friend to an outsider, it's human nature to leave off the traits that others might find less than appealing.  We sometimes paint a picture colored with a rosy shade rather than a vision of stark reality.  In our writing however, we must earn the trust of the reader by keeping the writing honest and real.  Our characters therefore, must be three dimensional and we have to expose their bad traits as well as the good.  It is this practice that allows the reader to trust that everything we tell them will be honest, real, and worth reading.  As they get to see the character through our eyes, the same facets that make them compelling to us as the writer will make them just as compelling to the reader.

The second thing is to give this character something to be involved in.  A story about someone who sits in their living room watching soap operas all day (even if written honestly) will not be all that compelling.  Our readers want to see something happen.  Take that character out and let them walk through the world, experiencing things, solving problems, discovering life.  Whatever the story is, the character needs to be actively involved.  They need to be an integral part of what is going on, even if it's a scene where they are not present.

The third thing to do is to change this character.

Say what?  Did he just say what I thought he said?  I just created this honest, real character, dragged him out of the house, made him walk down the path, and now he wants me to change things around?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.  Your perfect three dimensional character needs to change over the life of the story.  Speaking as someone who has almost hit his 40th year, I can tell you that everyone changes.  Whether we realize it or not, whether we admit it or not, every person changes over time.  This ties into the first part regarding keeping things honest, but if you want your reader to buy into the fact that this is a real person (or alien, or kid, or vampire), you have to keep them real throughout.  This means they need to be changed by their experiences, impacted by decisions they make, affected by the world around them.

There are many more ways to make characters compelling (and I'm sure my fellow bloggers will highlight other things, go check each of them out), but these are the top three as far as I'm concerned.  What are your ideas on making characters compelling?  What else should I have mentioned?  The comment box is open.  And everyone go have some ice cream.  Consider it a celebration of Friday.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blog Chain - I'm Dead? Damn...

This blog chain round is brought to you by the devious Shannon, who evidently is wishing dire consequences on all her fellow writers.  Consider this evidence:

Imagine this: when you're gone, readers will remember your writing most for just one of these things: your characters, your plots, your settings, or your style. Which one (only one!) would you prefer over the rest? Why?

What did we blog chainers do to you, oh Shannon the wise, to deserve a premature death?  It must have been that fruitcake I sent last Christmas.  I swear they promised it would arrive fresh and tasty, so I don't know why you had such a debilitating reaction.

In any event, I will answer this interesting question regardless.  I suppose I should feel a bit morbid thinking about my own demise, but I'm fairly matter-of-fact about it.  I'm a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, including the end of all that is me.  But should such a travesty occur, what impressions would I want to leave behind?

Though I am as of yet unpublished, I expect (barring a random bus accident or falling off a bridge) that I will attain that goal sometime in the near future.  And with that, I'm hoping my words will reach more than ten people (not counting family, of course).  So if I have to pick just one thing I'd want those ten people to remember about me as a writer, I'd have to go with memorable characters.  Part of that is because I struggle to make my characters realistic, 3 dimensional beings, and being remembered for that would mean that I have succeeded in not only creating fully-fleshed out characters but also memorable ones.

I also am thinking about books that I have enjoyed thoroughly, and it really hasn't been the settings or plots or even style (though this is something I do like alot also) that I remember most.  It is the characters that an author creates - both good and bad - that stay in my mind long after I turn the final page.  Emulating these lingering tendrils of memorable personages is a worthy task and one I work at constantly.

Well, I've ranted long enough.  You needn't worry;  I'm sure the epitaph on my tombstone will be much shorter.  Something along the lines of, "He lived.  He died.  Play some AC/DC in his honor."

If you didn't get a chance to see the awesome Sandra's take on things, head on over here.  And Michelle Hickman's inspiring post on the subject will be up tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Watching A Revised Bit Of History...Completely Unaware

I was browsing through the DVDs at Walmart and saw a movie I had not seen for a long time.  The film is Where The Red Fern Grows and it is based upon an awesome book (of the same name) written by Wilson Rawls.  More often than not, movies made from books are terrible, but this particular one was exceedingly well done back in 1974.  Though I didn't recognize the images on the cover, I remembered enjoying it very much when I was young, so I picked it up right away.

As we gathered around the television - my wife and I relishing sharing this experience with our boys - my wife and I were confused because we didn't remember the people in the movie nor the images being displayed.  It was still an enjoyable movie however, so we chalked it up to fading memories from times long past.

After the movie was over (my wife wiping away a tear or two, no not me, I didn't cry.  I swear), I looked up the movie on IMDB and was surprised to find out the version we had just watched was a remake done in 2003 (as you can see in the two images here):

Now if it can be truly said that movies made from books are usually terrible, remakes of these types of movies are even worse.  I was pleasantly surprised however, to find that this remake was decently done, and neither of us had even noticed the difference until it was all over.

If you have never had the pleasure of reading this book (I will be heading to Amazon to find another copy right after this), you really need to pick it up.  And if you've not seen the film, I can honestly say either version does a decent job of portraying an excellent story.  The earlier one is probably the better of course, but the one created in 2003 wasn't bad at all.

What I enjoy most about movies like this is how well the author's voice resonates in this alternate medium.  Sure, there's an actor (Kris Kristofferson in the new version) speaking the lines, but the honesty and heart of the words speak louder than the person mouthing them.  I'll take a good book over a movie any day, but I can't ignore how movies like this seep into my bones and grab the writer within me.  It's similar to how the movie Stranger Than Fiction inspired me to pick up the virtual pen and become a writer again after years of absence.  Much like a good book will cause my soul to soar, movies like these have a similar effect.

Do you ever feel this way about certain movies or songs?  Do you seek them out from time to time as I seem to do?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Funnies - Mommas and Poppas

Being the family man that I am, the badge I proudly wear is that of Daddy (though of course my 16 year old hasn't called me that for some time now;  "Can I just call you Dad now?").  So this video cracked me up big time.

For all you other Dads out there, feel free to replay it and sing along (or rap along, as the case may be).

Now, I know the majority of my followers are women and a great deal of you are Moms.  Don't worry, there's a new anthem for you as well:

I have to hand it to these people.  They did a pretty good job of turning these popular songs into hilarious alternate versions.  Made me laugh a bunch, anyway.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Feeling a little better

Thanks everyone for hoping I would begin feeling better.  It must be helping because I actually am.  Or possibly it's because I'm nuking this damn thing with killer medicine.  I usually avoid taking any medicine at all, so when I do take any, it's pretty potent.

I'm a big fan of not taking medicine.  I'm a believer in the idea that our bodies have a great capacity for healing themselves.  Yeah, sometimes I have to suffer through a few aches and pains, but I do believe I'm healthier for it.  I don't take flu shots and the fact that they have to keep updating them for virus mutations tends to support my beliefs.  In fact, the worst case of sickness I ever had was after I got a flu shot once.  It might be coincidence, but I don't think so.

What does all this have to do with writing?  You know I always have to tie everything here into a writing post (since I haven't had any good writings of my own to share for a while).  As I ramble on here, I am thinking about beliefs.  I have pretty strong beliefs in general, and I tend to stick to them like glue.  What about the characters that I write?

I was going to say that all main characters need to have a belief system, but I deleted it.  That's not an accurate statement.  There are some characters that do have strong beliefs.  Their journey in the story might therefore involve figuring out how to fit in the larger world beyond themselves, given their belief systems.

Then there are characters who really aren't sure what they believe in.  These are actually my preference.  Their journey will most likely involve figuring out what to believe in and why.  This might not even be a conscious journey, but one they make without knowing it, until they find themselves changed at the end.

Do you think about the belief systems of your characters?  And how do you show that in your writing?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blog Chain - Exploring The Genres

Not even illness can keep me from posting a blogchain entry. I'm committed, dangit (or at least I should be).

This round's question comes from the ever-talented Margie who asks:

How did you come to write your YA genre (e.g. contemp, fantasy, etc.)? AND (yep, it’s a 2 parter), if you weren’t writing that, what genre would you be interested in exploring?

Like my predecessor Sandra, I don't think I write YA (nor do I think I could).  The biggest problem for me is that I don't really know what genre a particular tale might be in.  If it's obviously sci-fi or fantasy or horror, I'd probably be able to tell.  But despite reading many posts by other bloggers on the subject of genres, I still don't have a clue.

To answer the question however, it's probably safest to say I like to write thrillers with a paranormal twist set inside a horror background.  Oh, and throw in a few mythological creatures for good measure.  Okay, I have no idea what genre I am writing in, but I know what it isn't.  I don't write romance or historical fiction.  I don't think I have what it takes to write the former effectively (without it becoming sappy or turning into softcore porn), and the latter would scare the crap out of me because of all the required research.   One of the best benefits of being a storyteller in a made up world is I get to make all the rules, make up all the background, and ignore reality (to some extent anyway).

As for the second part, I've gotten some really good ideas from some of the other chainers.  I could see myself writing something in a Western setting, though like the Dark Tower style.  I don't know if I could write it as a straight Western though - gotta have something out of the ordinary.  I could also see myself composing a tale in a Steampunk reality, though the research devil rears its ugly head there.  I haven't written any fantasy stories since I was much younger, so that would be fun too.

If you haven't checked out what the incredible Sandra has to say on the subject, get on over there.  And the awesome Michelle Hickman will be presenting her thoughts tomorrow.

Ten Word Tuesday - Illness

Illness is God's way of saying, "Hey, slow down dude."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Missing On Monday - Feeling Sick

I know I said I would be posting more often, but unfortunately my loving wife has seen fit to share her nasty cold with me. Yeah, nothin' better than second-hand cold between loved ones.

Anyway, I will be posting tomorrow (since it'll be my turn on the blog chain), and I need to do a Ten Word Tuesday as well. I haven't done one of those in a while either. Since I don't have a bottle of Jack Daniels, I'm going to go find some cold medicine somewhere 'round here and go to bed early. Thanks all for stopping by.

While you all have your pens poised, can anybody write me a new ending to this tale of illness? I'd be most grateful :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday Thoughts - Sunrise, Sunset

If you've never seen or heard this song from the musical The Fiddler On The Roof, you've been missing out.

This video is from the film version, and the entire movie is easily comparable to any stage performance of this same story that I've ever seen.  In fact, The Fiddler On The Roof is one of best performed musicals on film ever IMHO.  Okay, stage performances have their own type of intensity, but this film is one that I regard just as highly.

If you listen to the words of this particular song however, you'll understand how I'm feeling lately.  No, I don't have any adult children getting married, but I do feel like the days, weeks, months, and years are flying by.  This is further emphasized by the fact that it's been a week since my last post and I hadn't even realized I'd let the time slip past.

I was thinking about this concept of time flowing past quickly, and I realized it would be great if I could continually capture that idea in my writing.  I don't mean that stories need to rush the reader along, but I think we can all agree that stalling the movement of a story is bad.  And since our lives generally keep moving along (whether we notice the passage of time or not), our stories should probably do the same thing.  This is not to say that there aren't moments in our writing where the pace should slow for a bit to savor a scene, but on the whole we need to keep things moving.

It's funny that we often try to create these worlds that are completely different from our own (especially those of us writing fantasy or sci-fi) and yet it's absolutely necessary that we include the same basic framework from our own realities.  I guess there actually are some universal truths, one of them being the unstoppable passage of time.

On that note, I'm going to get back to working on things.  But when was the last time you noticed the passage of time (either in your own life or your writing)?  And how do you deal with it?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back In Town

The title is a bit misleading, since I really haven't traveled anywhere.   But I was on a leave of absence of sorts from blogging.  I don't know exactly how much I got accomplished, but do we ever get everything done we'd like to?   Probably not.

In any event, you can expect regular posts from me once more.  Thanks to Cassandra Jade, I had the opportunity yesterday to be a guest on her blog and she on mine.  That's a first for me, and to be honest it was both fun and daunting.  Let's face it - blogging on the page of a published author is awesome, but it also left me hoping that my words would be good enough.  Cassandra has a pretty big following (for good reason), and I was hoping to do her page justice.  Judging from the comments though, I guess I didn't do too bad.

I have a four day weekend coming up, and I'm hoping to take at least one of those days and spend it working on revising my short story.   It actually felt good to do some revisions a little while back, because I could see the story becoming clearer.  It's pretty cool when I feel like I'm making good progress on my skills as writer as opposed to feeling completely lost (like how the classes in my Masters degree program have me feeling lately LOL).

This is a short post, but I'll try to put up something more fun tomorrow in celebration of Friday.  As Michelle McLean shows each week, each Friday should be filled with fun.

What writerly things are you going to do this weekend?  Think you can squeeze in a paragraph or two, revise a passage here or there?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guest Blogger - The Characters Inside by Cassandra Jade

Note from Eric:   I've had the lucky opportunity to be a part of Cassandra Jade's blog tour (the first person, no less).  I can't tell you how cool this is for me, not to mention the honor of having a writer like Cassandra gracing my blog.  She even allowed me to put up a post on her blog, so you can check out my post here.  Without further ado, heeereeeeee's the talented and awesome Cassandra!

I want to firstly thank Eric for hosting me today and officially launching my blog tour. I’ve been reading Eric’s blog for some time and really love his candid nature as he discusses his writing journey.

As the title suggests, today I am writing about the characters that dwell inside all of us, whether we write them in to life or let them languish in forgotten corners of our minds. I know there are many writers that dispute the idea of characters creating themselves but it often feels like characters find us.

Where do they come from? Probably from hours upon hours of subconscious thought, putting together attributes and ideas before our conscious mind pays any attention and so the character creation process is probably still taking place but without really thinking about it. But these characters spring to life and then they want us to tell their story.

And they all have a story.

I think that’s what I like about characters that seem to simply appear rather than the ones I laboriously construct. These characters have depth and layers that if I was creating a character from scratch on paper, my creation just wouldn’t have. They have backgrounds and likes and dislikes and motivations that I wouldn’t consciously have thought of but these characters come along and just want their story told.

Maybe these are left over imaginary friends from childhood, but somehow I doubt it.

The problems really begin after these characters have been floating around inside your head for awhile. Getting all of the many attributes that you know and love about these characters onto paper becomes difficult and no matter how you write it, they never seem as alive as they did when they were inside your head. The other problem, is after you’ve been writing them for awhile, they seem to exist outside of you and aren’t really bouncing around anymore, clamouring for your undivided attention. And I am all too easily distracted by the next character that comes along.

Other problems arise when you create a character that you don’t personally like. While these characters are sometimes fun, when they are bouncing around your head they can really make you want to delete them.
There were definitely moments when writing Death’s Daughter that I really disliked my protagonist – and mostly I was supposed to dislike her – but sometimes it made writing a scene hard as I would have her say something and then flinch, wondering why I would have her say something that horrible.

So the question for the writers out there is this: Do you have characters inside of you? If yes, what do you do with them?

Cassandra Jade is a fantasy writer from Australia. You can visit her blog at: http://cassandrajade.wordpress.com
Her first novel, Death’s Daughter, is available from Lyrical Press.