Monday, October 29, 2007

Baby on the Ceiling

If you want to hear the most satisfying baby belly laugh you have to play this game. You take one Draper baby and grasp firmly about the middle. Then you lift baby up above your head and slowly raise him until his back is flat against the ceiling. Then shout in your happiest voice, "Baby on the ceiling!"

Works every time.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Least Surprising Event of the Week

No, not that Britney went back to rehab. I received a kindly rejection email from the agent who was looking over 1000 Things About Me. Now that I've decided it's really a memoir more than anything else I can go back through and craft it that way. Even I can admit there is always room for improvement in my writing, stellar as it often is. And for my next serving of humble pie, some time tomorrow I will get my beta reader's report on 'The Battle of Raven Kill.' I can tell already that it's going to be brutal. She asked me how 'receptive' I was to 'suggestions.' Oy! That's the equivalent of an oncologist insisting you sit down before going over the test results.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Triond: The Pennies Keep Rolling In

More earnings for Sep/Oct! Twenty and Seven were the cents earned over the last month. That puts my grand total at about $1.75. I posted another article in Life Lessons From the Marines and I'm thinking about how to do a few more. Interestingly enough, even some of my earlier articles from last June are still getting a hit or two every month.

Monday, October 22, 2007

CSFF Tour for October

This month we take a look at The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers. This has a well developed website that I suggest everyone go to. The book is about a regular boy who must become King. This is a comfortable theme and has been seen many times in YA fiction, mostly because all ten year old boys dream of becoming a powerful Warrior King. The Wilderking Trilogy does not disappoint and will be loved by boys everywhere.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Two Favorite Words

This afternoon Bravo had a marathon of Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton. I love that show. It is always fascinating to listen to accomplished people discuss the creative process. (Plus Robin Williams unleashed is hilarious.) At the end of each interview Lipton goes through a series of questions that includes "What is your favorite word?" Although the trend at the moment seems to be Stephen Colbert's 'truthiness', I have two that I cannot decide between: Wrath and Sorrow.

Wrath is just a fun word to say. Plus it's got that cool W at the beginning. It's like it's saying 'hey I could be just four letters but I pack so much emotional punch I had to reach out an grab an extra.' It's also almost single handedly responsible for making Star Trek II the best Trek movie ever.

Sorrow is larger than life in much the same way. It conveys so much more than just saying 'really, really sad.' It has that sense of gut wrenching sadness along with regret and pain that is never, ever going to stop.

So those are my two favorite words as far as I know. Any auditions for additions will be considered.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Battle's First Draft Finished

I finished 'The Battle of Raven Kill' in first draft form and have sent it off for the undoubtedly substantial improvement that will come when my very good friend goes over it and points out where I've been dense, daft, and just plain dorky. Now I have to seriously think about the next writing project. Or rather, which of my current writing projects to pick back up. I have two stories now that are still in rough draft form and need my attention. (By the way, I consider that first blast through to The End to be the rough draft and only after going back through and trying to bring the Story out of it do I consider it a first draft. In other words, rough draft and first draft are two different things. Until it is in first draft form, there's no point in sharing it because there's nothing there to share.) My inclination is to turn towards the reworking of 'Skyman' because I have a clearer idea of how to get it into first draft form. I seem to be thinking up bits and pieces of scenes for my novel project Broken so I'll let it continue in that fashion. In other news, I still haven't heard anything back from the agent looking at 1000 Things About Me. Onward and upward.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Writing Lessons From Chopping Things Off

This morning I made a decision that greatly improved The Battle of Raven Kill. I chopped off the first four pages. Like an executioner's axe already bloody from a busy punch list, I carved away the pages of setup and description that I had previously thought necessary. Why? Because they were slowing down the story and kept bringing up more questions than they answered. Many people feel that they must explain things to their readers early on in the story or else the reader won't 'get it.' What I found when I tried to do this was that I wasn't making things clearer, I was making them murkier. Questions like 'who are these people?' and 'what is their relationship to the main character?' kept coming up. Every time I tried to work on that section I found I needed to expand things when I knew I wanted to contract them. The solution was beginning to become apparent and this morning I just did it. Reading through the reworked opening showed me that everything I was trying to set up could be done in one paragraph. It is simply much better this way.

Added bonus: I saved the writing to another file and now I have Deleted Scenes that I can add to the DVD.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Last Dragon

I just finished reading the first chapter of the book Last Dragon, by J.M. McDermott, which is going to be published by Wizards of the Coast in February 2008. Wizards of the Coast is a gaming company that began just down the road from me. They were the people who brought us Magic: The Gathering. (I'm pretty sure they also were the U.S. distributor for Pokemon cards.) Later they bought the company that created Dungeons & Dragons. They have also branched out into publishing; first with books about their various gaming systems and now with a general speculative fiction line.

Last Dragon is a fantasy about a woman searching for her lost love. She apparently builds and destroys a few kingdoms along the way. The story opens with the main character, Zhan, having a bit of a mental breakdown. She's also been reduced to vagabond status, working for pennies and fighting to stay alive on the streets of a foreign city. McDermott is absolutely amazing at creating the look and feel of this rancid and rotting underclass society. The opening scenes are a bit confusing but if you follow along you see the character begin to unfold. Then you get to some action scenes and the Meeting of the Mentor (thought I'd throw in a little Christopher Vogler) and that's where I got the feeling that the story was really going to take off. McDermott's writing is quick and his imagery is outstanding. Last Dragon shows a lot of promise.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Scarlet

Rain today. Endless grey. But all is not lost! My review copy of Scarlet by Stephen R. Lawhead arrived. This cannot be a bad book. The reading will commence and the review will be forthcoming. This of course means that Gardens of the Moon and Dune are on hold.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

WOTS and the Long Dark

It's been a long weekend and the sun has set. Kids have been fed. Saved episodes of The Daily Show have been watched. Here's the rundown on the last two classes of the day, The Way of Story and Crafting the Short Story.

The Way of Story had two very good points. Conflict is crucial to a story and there are three levels: external, interpersonal, and inner. Next was another take on story structure: Problem, Desire, Opponent, Plan, Final Battle, Self Revelation, New Life. These are all good things to internalize as a writer so that they come out naturally without having to laboriously slave away to include them.

Crafting the Short Story turned out to be more of a motivational session that covered a lot of the same ground I've seen before. So it was good but not dazzling.

Over all the classes and workshops were good and the weekend was worth the hundred bucks or so. Right now it's a lot to take in so I will try to absorb it all by going over my notes next week. As for now, it's time for lights out and go back to work in the morning.

WOTS Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

OK, in a rush to catch up, here's the skinny on Sunday morning. The two workshops were Who's Zooming Whom by Garth Stein, and Dr. Frankenstein's Character Lab by Craig English.

Garth is a fantastic speaker and was very engaging. His background is in documentary film making and screenwriting. I've found that anyone with a background in the visual arts is a great person to teach writing. They point out how your reader will be visualizing what you write and 'running the movie' through their head. Forget about that at your peril. He also led the class through dramatic structure which is very specific and defined in screenwriting. It is a tremendous help to fiction.

The character lab was primarily about personality types. Craig went through some of the differences between men and women; which we've always known were huge but now science is proving it through research in brain chemistry. Of course, when you put up a white board and encourage the audience to throw out male and female characteristics for a list, you are just asking for trouble. In a good natured way, he got it. His take on personalities was all about attachment theory which is good stuff but way too in depth for this post.

Lunch at Petosa's deli was so-so.

WOTS Saturday Afternoon

I was unable to post anything about yesterday afternoon because I had to run home and host a wine tasting party with several friends. (Of course, the most expensive wine was fairly middling.)

The two sessions I attended were Technology and Being Unforgettable. The technology class was primarily centered around blogging and establishing a web presence for the purpose of marketing your work. There were some good ideas and I'm going to use some of them but the really interesting part of the class was a couple of people who had no idea what a blog was, what internet forums were, or even how to spell www. Most of us were somewhere around my skill/knowledge level and a few were obviously experts in 'web platforms.' This made for a difficult time for the presenter, Scot Herrick, as he tried to keep things worthwhile and interesting for us all.

The next workshop was taught by Laura Whitcomb. She had five techniques, like distilling dialog down to the very essence and creating interesting characters by giving them baggage, for making your manuscript stand out amongst all the others. Her central premise was that if you have an interesting beginning, and really hook the ending into that beginning, you can create a sense of closure and completeness that will leave an agent thinking it was a great read and forgive you any mistakes in the middle. Clever advice and well worth working towards.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

WOTS Morning Sessions

The class on anti-heroes was outstanding. It was an excellent summation of what I've kind of known about anti-heroes but never put down in words. The presenter, Jessica Page Morrell, has done her homework and captured the character well. We all know about the rascally rogue or charming criminal who is your stereotypical anti hero but she also catalogs several other categories as well. To me, they seem to fall into two types, aforementioned rogues like Han Solo and the everyman/loser like Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman. Morrell has some great advice about writing in general that will surely be summarized here in the near future but this lunch break isn't as long as it first looked. More to come later this evening.

The class on mystery writing was forgettable.

Writers Conference: Start Your Engines

Today I'm off to a local writers conference called Write on the Sound in the beautiful city of Edmonds. This will be my second time there and the sessions I've signed up for are:

Color Them Gray- The Anti Hero
Mystery Writing
Technology For Writers
Being Unforgettable
Who's Zooming Whom?
Dr. Frankenstein's Character Lab
The Way of Story
Crafting the Short Story

More in-depth reports will follow later today.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

How to Confirm That You Don't Know All That Much

One easy step: High School English.

So I'm like all about writing and stuff. Son Number One is working on his High School curriculum by correspondence. He's all, "Hey, Dad, what's a predicate?" And I'm all, "Dude! How should I know?" And he's like, "Well then what's the subject of this sentence?" So I go, "Subject is like a noun or something." So he gets all puzzly looking and points to some stupid rule. And I'm like, "Hey don't get all up in my face, man." And he's all, "Do you even know what you're talking about?" And then I'm all like up in the hizzy and ready to throw down. Then like dinner's totally ready so I can escape and hopefully not have to go through that again. I spent all that time ignoring my teachers in High School so that I wouldn't have to do this kind of thing.