A to Z Challenge 2013

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