Friday, April 29, 2011

The Weekend Creation Blog Hop

I finally joined a blog hop. This one is easy. There's no weekly posting involved and you don't have to paste lots of links/garbage on your blog. It's simple -- just go to the blog hosting The Weekend Creation Blog Hop and browse the blogs posted on the weekend. If you like them, you can become a follower. If you don't want to, you don't have to become a follower. No pressure. Of course, you have to post the image to the left somewhere on your blog, but that's not a big deal.

The Weekend Creation Blog Hop supports anyone with a creative blog or a creative blog post. It can be music related, art related, dance related. It just has to be creative.

Go here to join: http://wordsinsync.blogspot.com/

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the Middle of the Night... There Are Ghosts!

If you've been following the news, you know that Texas has been hit by wildfires and severe spring weather. In the past week there have been more tornado watches than I have fingers and toes. It's crazy! I am a storm lover. Give me a good book and a cup of tea in bed and I'm happy with my cats curled up beside me, minus the husband's snoring. However, this week the winds picked up so bad I thought I'd turned into Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz! I lay in bed wondering if the storm sirens were going to go off soon. The lightning flashed so fast I could not count between strikes and the old oaks creaked outside. My writer's imagination went wild with excitement. Every burst of lightning cast odd shadows on the wall from my antique bedroom set and I could see how little children see ghosts in their room at night.

Of course, that got me thinking about my ghost story sitting unfinished, which I am dragging out tomorrow. And then I wondered about book lists. Oddly, I couldn't find a good one on Google, just lots of listings for Peter Straub, a great writer, but not what I was looking for. I hopped on over to Goodreads and found a Ghost Stories book list and much, much more, which I browsed.

I'm going to share with you some of the favorite ghost stories I have read over the years. Of course, this list is in no particular order.

1) The Shining by Stephen King. This book still haunts me and I read it over 20 years ago. I cannot go into a hotel bathroom or my own without thinking of that scene with the dead lady in the bathtub. *shivers*

2) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Anyone who wants to write a ghost story and write well should pick up her work. Great author! This is a classic.

3) Heart-Shaped Box by Joe  Hill. Wow! Writing runs in the family, so you wouldn't expect Mr. Hill to fall flat on his face, but this book I read in one sitting. It was one of those books invoking the great dragon of writer envy! How I loved it!

4) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. This story traumatized me as a child, but now it is just a good read. I was horrified thinking of a guy searching for his head!

5) We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Again, a classic and so well written. I read this one nonstop as well.

6) Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker. He is an amazing author and I would read his books if they were printed on toilet paper. They are that good! This one was creepy. I loved the atmosphere of the book. Who doesn't love a good Hollywood ghost story?

7) Bag of Bones by Stephen King. People didn't like the direction his new books were taking at the time this was written. I disagreed with old King fans. This book is beautifully written and a great story. Haunting. It stayed with me. I cried.

8) Wraith by Phaedra Weldon. This book probably falls into paranormal romance in some people's eyes, but I love it. Zoe Martinique is a great female character, an investigator. These books are quick reads, but fun.

9) The Ancestors by Brandon Massey, L.A. Banks, and Tanarive Due. This collection of African American stories breathes new life into the ghost story. And I am a huge Tanarive Due fan. Her writing is wonderful.

10) The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories edited by Peter Haining. I find any of the Mammoth collections introduce me to great writers and lots of new stories. This one was a good one.

11) The Mammoth Book of Modern Ghost Stories edited by Peter Haining. Another nice collection.

12) Others by James Herbert. Truly chilling.

13) Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry. This series is one you cannot miss. It is well written and a good tale. I have so much respect for Mr. Maberry.

I'm going to stop here at lucky number 13.

What are some of your favorite ghost stories? Share some with me in a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why Zombies Don’t Suck… by Guest Blogger Armand Rosamilia

…and Vampires Do. Pun intended.
First, let me get the needless self-aggrandizing promotional portion of this guest blog thingy out of the way: I write zombie tales. Not just any zombie tales, but extreme zombie tales. How extreme? You be the judge (like how I turned that around on you, forcing you to purchase several copies of my releases just to find out?) … We’ll get to the purchase links at the end, so bear with me…

Anyway, back to our thought processes…

Damn you, Anne Rice. Damn you all to Hell.

Remember when you were a kid and vampires were menacing, deadly and scared the crap out of you? Salem’s Lot scary. Nosferatu freak-you-out. Hammer Films bloodsuckers.

My kids are in their teens and what do they have to look up to? Twilight crying, pretty vampires. True Blood sex and, well, pretty vampires. They’ve taken the bite (damn, another pun) out of our fanged foes and made them into slobbering immortals who wish they were human again so they could see the sunset and order a pizza and watch a day game at Fenway Park.

Not zombies. What’s the big argument these days? Not about who is the prettiest, sexiest zombie around, which actor can sell a movie on his looks alone and which flavor of the week sexy starlet gets to be his love interest… nope, we argue incessantly about one thing and one thing only.

Slow versus fast.

My choice? Who cares, as long as zombies don’t start crying and wishing they were still alive and seeing their kids in the school play.

Of course, you have great films like “Shaun of the Dead”, which pokes fun at the zombie genre, or horrible movies like “Wanted: Undead or Alive” which, well, was just awful… where was I?

Even though there are different moves to the left or the right, the zombie genre is pretty specific. One of my favorite zombie reads has to be “The Rising” byBrian Keene, and it has a little twist to the baddies in it. There are a couple of great extreme zombie novellas out by Armand Rosamilia, namely “Highway ToHell” and “Dying Days”, that every zombie fan needs to read (sorry, I swore it was coming at the end but I can’t help myself). Peruse Amazon, Lulu or SmashWords or the local bookstore for zombie books and you’ll find such a plethora or great reads it will make your head spin. My Kindle is filled (over 100 and counting) with zombie stories, and I wish I had time to read them all. Maybe someday. Don’t even get me started on the great anthologies out there. “The New Dead”… “History Is Dead”… “The Undead: Zombie Anthology”… “The LivingDead”… “Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology”… just search Amazon for them…

Authors like Joe McKinney, Max Brooks, Mark Clodi, Kim Paffenroth, J.L. Bourne, Jonathan Maberry, Eric S. Brown… should I go on? So many great names have written powerful zombie books or contributed to anthologies. Despite using humor, ultra-violence, or any other unique trait to differentiate their tales from the rest, the only characters crying like babies are usually the people about to get bitten and torn apart.

I did a completely scientific experiment today. I asked ten guys and ten gals which they liked better, zombies or vampires. The result? All ten guys chose zombies, and eight of ten gals chose vampires. The two gals who chose zombies over vampires are obviously really, really cool in my book. Am I trying to say that chicks dig vampires and dudes like zombies? Maybe. I think today’s vampire is too soft, too gorgeous, too prone to Shakespearian soliloquy about the human female in their un-life. Zombie prose?

Br---aaa---iii----nnnn----ssss…

That I’ll keep reading.
 
 
Armand Rosamilia is a New Jersey boy currently living in sunny Florida. His latest release is the extreme zombie novella "Dying Days" from Rymfire eBooks, and he has so many zombie short stories out in anthologies that he's almost lost count. Almost. He's a huge Red Sox fan, Heavy Metal fan and reads way too much. http://armandrosamilia.wordpress.com/

 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How Much Unpublished Writing Should You Post on Your Blog?

I ask myself this every time I post on my blog and feel every writer should too. I have posted links to already published work and a little teaser of a story or some poetry I do not intend to sell, but I'm keeping my story sharing to a minimum for a few reasons.
1)  I want to sell stories. If I post everything, I'm writing for free, no one will have a reason to buy my work.

2) I already post my works in progress on a critique forum and feel that forum is the professional choice for feedback from peers. I want to put forward my best image on my blog. You never know when someone important in the industry will stop by and I don't want my unfinished work to be my first impression. I only get one chance to make a first impression and it's going to the best one I can!

3) I am concerned with copyright issues. If I post something here, technically, it's the first publication. I want my work published for the first time in a publication other than my own blog.

4) Even though this blog is copyrighted, I know there is the smallest chance someone reading my work would try to steal my ideas. Unless you're Kim Harrison or another big name, you might never find out someone stole your work, unless you or a friend stumbles across it by chance. I am very careful about what I share and with whom.

My advice to writers is to share only short teasers of your work or links to already published writing. If you just want to share your writing with the world, then publish wherever you want, and please, leave a link so I can enjoy your stories too. But if you're trying to get a agent, get published, and are in the business professionally, consider what I've blogged today.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Works in Progress

Short post today -- still recovering from a looong day yesterday, including trying to coax my husband's new pet snake to eat. Seems like Ludwig is on a starvation protest right now. *sigh*

I have a bunch of works in progress, as most writers do at any given time.

1) I just sent out my snow faery piece, Fool's Gold, for submissions this week.

2) I have a magic realist piece, Knock, Knock, about a woman who owns a stuffed animal with a connection to the other side waiting for a home.

3) I have a short story submitted about a death memorial portraitist, which is an actual profession. I've had more than one person ask me about this creepy detail. Indeed, you can make a living doing artwork of the dead. Sometimes the artist will actually do a portrait as the subject is dying and sometimes they work from a photo of the dead or actual body. They can also work from a favorite photograph. This practice originates from the Victorian era when mourning customs were elaborate. I feel we've lost touch with the beautiful intimacy of death in today's society and wanted to address this in my story.

4) I'm also working on finishing another short story, a bully revenge tale, about a boy who discovers he has a supernatural power. It's been described by Critter readers as a boy Carrie story. Hopefully, that heads out the door sometime in the next week as well.

5) Then there's my zombie novella set in good ole Dallas, Texas where I live now. That is a fun piece I'm in revisions on right now.

6) Oh, and don't forget the creepy piece about Victorian mourning jewelry I have to finish as well!

I also have a zillion ideas screaming to leak their way onto my computer screen. I have a lot to keep me busy right now.

What are you working on, writer?
As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Friday, April 22, 2011

My 2011 Earth Day Book List

Okay, it's Earth Day! I usually don't participate in holiday/day themed posts, but this one is important to me since I live and write on this blue and green ball.

A little background on Earth Day: Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson in April 22, 1970. In 1990 the event went international with Denis Hayes.

Here's a little something for the Earth Day reader...

A Small Earth Day Book List (in no particular order)

1) Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver: She is a favorite author of mine. The prose in this book make you want to cry. It's written that well. Beautiful! A story about a wildlife biologist observing coyotes in the Appalachian Mountains with a cast of great characters.

2) The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling: This collection of themed short stories will make you want to write your own Green Man tale! Entertaining as always, this duo of editors is a real gift to modern literature. For the fantasy lovers out there, recommended!

3) Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn: The gorilla Ishmael can teach everyone a few lessons about life, the world, and all the important things we humans forget. The sequels to this book are also recommended.

4) The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield: I own and have read this book twice now and learned something new each time. Discover a new way of looking at the little coincidences that happen around you in everyday life and spirituality. *hint* You might never look at plants the same way again.

5) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman: An oldie, but a goodie. One of my favorite poetry collections by Walt Whitman, the great American poet. My copy on my bookshelf is worn!

6) Silent Spring by Rachel Carson: Learn the truth about pesticides and weed killers. First published in 1962 this book is now an environmental classic and has saved lives.

7) Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon: If you are looking for an inspiring travel book this one is for you. Explore small town American and meet the people who populate your part of the plant or try another travel book, if you don't like this one or live in the U.S. *grins* This book is wonderful. I own it.

8) A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins: This is the first travel book I ever owned and read. The sequels are just as great. "I started out searching for myself and my country," Peter Jenkins writes, "and found both."

9) The Lorax by Dr. Seuss: This children's book is still relevant today. Funny, I had to take an essay test for a class in college on this book. The perfect book to share with your little ones on Earth Day!

10) Second Nature: A Gardener's Education by Michael Pollan: A beautifully written book detailing the journey of one gardener's re-education by nature. This is a well-worn book on my bookshelf as well.

I hope you find something on the list to enjoy this Earth Day!

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Origin of The Mermaid's Shadow Lamp by Nora B. Peevy

I'm pulling one of my favorite stories from the vault today. Bewildering Stories published The Mermaid's Shadow Lamp in 2008. Bewildering Stories is a wonderful online magazine featuring speculative fiction. They welcome new writers as well as established and their Managing Editor, Don Webb, is one of the nicest editors I have worked with in the industry. (This is not just a plug for their publication -- it's true. He gave me a helpful critique of my story, which you do not always get when you submit. He also answered all the questions I had for him.)

They published the The Mermaid's Shadow Lamp in four parts. Here is the summary from their site:
Miriam Manchester is a bitter spinster and so rude that she is known as the Witch of Shorewood and is suspected of having sinister powers. One day she espies and purchases a musical shadow lamp in an antique store. Its beauty and music comfort her. It also has powers that surprise even a witch.
Three things inspired me to write this tale -- a love of shadow lamps, my favorite antique store, as a child, and your standard spooky witch who lives on your block.

First, I wanted to write a tale about a magical shadow lamp. I saw one in a magazine and I'd always wanted one as a child. For those of you who are not familiar with shadow lamps, here is a link to give you an idea. They are rotating lamps casting shadows onto the walls of the room. Miriam's has a music box included, though hers is directly from my imagination and not Amazon's modern version:

http://www.starmajic.com/store.cgi?A-Shadow-Lamp+0+1B1A001

The second inspiration for this story was Chattel Changers. One of my parents' hobbies is antiquing, so as a little girl I often went with them to this neat antique store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I enjoyed wandering the two-story shop and gazing at all the jewelry. I also found myself particularly drawn to the lacquered boxes and music boxes. While Miriam's antique store is not exactly the same, I drew upon the memory of Chattel Changers.

The third inspiration was the universal childhood rumor of a neighborhood witch on my block. Every child growing up has the house at Halloween that no one wants to go trick or treating at because the woman is a witch. Fortunately, I had two such characters. I moved into the neighborhood I lived in for twenty-three years, with two rumored witches. One of them turned out to be a family friend eventually, but the other one scared me even more than the dark as a child! I dreaded having to pick up my ball from her front yard and after the first Halloween, I never, EVER rang her doorbell again!

I hope you enjoy The Mermaid's Shadow Lamp as much as I enjoyed writing it. I asked Don Webb for a comment on my piece because rarely as writers do we actually discover why our stories were accepted or rejected. His reply: The gist is that the Review Board liked the characters, dialogue, and setting.  
So what are editors looking for? Well, Mr. Webb, his Review Board, and Jim Harrington, a veteran writer for Bewildering Stories, answer those questions in What Do Editors Want? They look for good grammar, an entertaining read, and great characters/story settings. The article also discusses common writing mistakes and the top three reasons stories are rejected. I recommend it for all writers. You can also find more helpful articles on their site here:

http://bewilderingstories.com/special/writing.html

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers? - #14

Another book review installment brought to you today by our new pet, Ludwig Van Beethoven, the Western Hognose snake.

I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams for the second time. If you like quirky British humor, then this book is for you.
It's a quick read; it introduces you to Arthur Dent who travels throughout the galaxy. I won't tell you who the most intelligent beings really are on earth, according to Adams, but it will give you a laugh, if you haven't already read the book or seen the movie. I recommend this book and the others in the series. Bring your towel. *wink*

If you are in the mood for a nonfiction book, I recommend Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror with Stephen King. This book is an old collection of interviews, but worth reading. The writing advice King dishes out is relevant to the industry today and you will learn a lot about such classic King novels as Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Salem's Lot, and more. King also offers insight into his family life and what scares him. Oddly enough, everything that scares him also scares me. (I guess I'm in good writing company.) His witty, honest, no-holds barred interview style is refreshing and entertaining. 

If you don't have the taste for terror or British sci-fi humor, you might try the classic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Not ever having seen the movie, I enjoyed the book. However, I could have done without the extremely long scientific lists of fish scattered throughout the novel. This is the same problem I had with Moby Dick; the story interested me, but sometimes I found the technical information a tad boring. While this book kept my attention, I was disappointed with the short Kraken scene at the end. I expected a bit more, but maybe, I'm jaded by Hollywood these days. Anyway, I can now check this classic off my list.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Snow Faery Story (Fool's Gold) Update & Said-Bookisms

Twice, I blogged about the short story I'm working on right now:

There Are No Snow Days in Writing

More on My Snow Faery Short Story

I am in the final edit of Fool's Gold, a YA cautionary tale in the tradition of the Grimm's darker stories. Normally, it would be finished already, but my writing got sidetracked by some health issues I've been battling in the past few months.
Fool's Gold received good reviews on Critters; I've spent the past few days plowing through a slew of critiques. My inbox got swamped! Overwhelmed by all the responses, I want to thank everyone who took the time to read my story. Your comments and suggestions have been very helpful.

I'll share my intro paragraph with you here.  It's changed since I first blogged.
Nell stared in horror at the tiny body of the man curled up next to their snow fort. If she held him upright in her palm, he would stand only a few inches tall. The man clutched a small bowler hat to his chest. She could see tiny threads of veins running across the hard angles of his translucent blue face, his chin pointy as an icicle. His hair, the color of fresh snow in moonlight, gleamed. His clothes were of the palest blue as sky reflected on water. He wore a long frock coat ending just above the knee, a frost blue cravat tied tightly at the collar of his band collar shirt.
In reading my critiques, one Critter offered a helpful article from the SFWA site. I am going to share it with you, in hopes it might improve your own writing. I learned the term "said-bookisms" in the past week. The SFWA defines this as:
Large words that mean ‘said,’ designed to connote additional information not conveyed in dialog or description. If used to excess, they result in overwriting: “I’m climaxing!” he ejaculated.
I removed the said-bookisms from my story and found it greatly improved the flow of my writing.

There are many other terms in the article used to critique someone else's work, they can be found here:
http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/being-a-glossary-of-terms-useful-in-critiquing-science-fiction/

The Turkey City Lexicon - A Primer for SF Workshops also discusses useful terms for critiquing.

Both articles hold invaluable information for me.
As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Horror Writing: Ten Cliches to Avoid by Guest Blogger William Meikle

For anyone thinking about writing in the horror genre, there are certain situations that, over the years, have been done so often that the audience knows exactly what to expect. Using any of these is fine if you're being post-modern and ironic as in the Scream series, because you can get the audience laughing as they jump. But if you're trying for the big scare, here are some situations to avoid, and alternative scenarios to consider.

The woman alone in the old dark house

She's usually blonde, big breasted and not very bright. She shouts things like "Who's there?" or "Is that you Joe?" Then she goes into dark rooms to see what's in them. Tippi Hedren plays a fine example in The Birds, as does Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. This scene has been so successfully lampooned by the Scream series that its going to be hard for anyone to do it again; but if you must, you'll need to find a new way of raising the tension. Making the woman blind has been done, as has having a man being stalked by a woman. But how about having the stalker existing inside mirrors, and only able to reach out at arms length. What happens if he gets a knife?

The kid whose Mom isn't Mom any more

The kid says "That isn't my mom" A smug doctor says, "It's all in your mind kid: The Mom leads the kid off, and the next day both Mom and the kid give the doctors far-away stares. This was a staple in 1950's paranoia flicks like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders from Mars, and was given a new lease of life in Dark Skies. Serious thought is needed to give a new slant. How about if its the pets that are getting taken over, and only the kids notice?

The experiment gone wrong

They say things like "Morals are for lesser mortals" and "The ends justify the means" Then their creation jumps up and bites them. Think of all the movie versions of Frankenstein or Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde you can't go far wrong. A more recent example was Beau Bridges in Sandkings, the pilot for the modern Outer Limits. Anyone planning on using this scenario should really meet some scientists. Many of them are weirder than their fictional equivalents, and they provide great material for stories.

The mob of villagers

Sometimes there's a ringleader, such as an old woman whose grandchild has been killed. Other times there's just an angry mob shouting "Rhubarb" and waving torches. Perhaps the best example is actually in a spoof, Young Frankenstein. How about trying a calm mob? I can't think of a new way of doing this that would be scary, but maybe you can do better?

The priest who's lost his faith

There are two ways this can go. The creature says "Your feeble god means nothing to me" and kills the priest in particularly gory fashion. Or the creature says "Your feeble god means nothing to me" and the priest steps up to the base and drives the creature away. There are fine examples of the first in Stephen King's Salem's Lot, and John Carpenter's The Fog. You could try having the creature banishing the priest to hell? I haven't seen that one... yet.

Running through woods in the dark

People run around in the dark, shouting things like "Mulder, where are you?" and waving flashlights, followed all the time by a malevolent presence in the trees. This is otherwise known as The Blair Witch Project. The idea was taken to extremes in Pitch Black where there wasn't even hope of daybreak to come. A variation would be to do it in daylight, but Big Arnie covered that in Predator. How about having the monster as an urban creature that is actually afraid of the woods when chased into them? Time for that angry mob again perhaps?

Playing with dark forces

Somebody says "Let's play with Grannie's Ouija board" The next thing you know a planchette is flying around the room on its own. This idea has turned up a lot on TV recently, and usually involves scantily clad girls, in shows like Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.The way to use this scenario without looking tired is to find a new way of calling up the evil. How about a character who mouths the words as he reads them, thus calling up the beast by accident?

The love of a good woman

The monster dies an inglorious death and somebody says "T' was beauty that killed the beast" Our cavemen ancestors probably told this one round the campfires. On film it dates back to at least 1933 and King Kong. More recently there was a variation in the Beauty and The Beast TV series and even the Disney movie of the same name. Why not try having the beauty fall in love first while the beast never succumbs? You'd need to find a neat resolution to the story, but then again, you're a writer, so that'll be easy :)

Let's split up

Everybody knows that the monster is around somewhere, but someone says, "We're off to explore that dark place. You go the other way and we'll meet up later." Why does everybody always think this is a great idea? Just watch Buffy TVS and count how often the gang lose each other. Or go back to the original Scooby gang and watch Shaggy and Scooby get split up in every episode. Why not have them stay together for a change? Or maybe they keep in contact via cell phones to foil the bad guys. Or, better still, what about a monster that can split up and be in two places at once?

I'm free

The monster has been vanquished, the victor turns back to the other survivors to take the acclaim, and the suddenly resurgent monster chomps him to pieces. There are nice examples in Starship Troopers and Deep Rising. One way to subvert this would be to have another monster save your victim? Or how about doing something brave and have your monster die first time?

Conclusion

I'm off to write my new script "Chomp!" It starts as a mob of angry villagers storm the lab of a mad scientist who has been dabbling in powers man is not meant to understand. The priest with the mob is killed by a "creature" that escapes into the forest.

A year later 10 nubile teens are shipwrecked on the island. They split up to search the area and find themselves being chased by a mutated man-beast, half-man, half Komodo Dragon. Soon there's a lot of running through forests at night, and a tense scene where a blonde is trapped in the ruins of the lab.

The big climax comes when the last two of the teens confront the monster. The boy thinks he's killed it, and turns back in triumph, only for the beast to rear up and dismember him.

In a poignant final scene the last girl cradles the monster's head in her lap and weeps as it dies.

Do you think it will sell? If your answer is "No", what would you do to make it work?


Copyright © 2008 by William Meikle

Willie Meikle

I am a Scottish author, with nine novels and over 150 short stories published in the genre press and recent professional short story sales to Wrong World and The Weekly News.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Support Your Fellow Writer

I'm on Facebook networking with other writers, one of which is Tom Piccirilli. Recently, Mr. Piccirillii started asking people to review at least one book a week and support other writers. He also gives writers a platform on his Facebook page each week to ask questions and to discuss books and promote their own writing, which is a great idea.

In that spirit, I am urging you, writer, whether, small press, large press, no press and just for fun, all bloggers, writers everywhere, to promote someone else's work this week besides your own.

There are a number of ways you can do this:

1) If you have a blog like mine, it's really simple. Write a book review or an article about a particular author's life. Post a blogroll. Add someone new to an existing blogroll. Invite another author to do some guest blogging; cross-promotion can be beneficial to them and you. The possibilities abound! You could even start your own blog today, if you've been procrastinating.

2) Join a book review site. There are plenty out there to choose. I am a member of Goodreads. I keep track of all the books I read and review them on there. There are also lots of reading groups and forum discussions where you can promote a writer on these sites.

3) Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are also great ways to share your favorite authors with your friends.

4) If someone's birthday or another important gift-giving day is coming up, consider purchasing them something thoughtful that will last. Buy a book to celebrate their day. If you love book shopping as much as I do, then you have my permission to book til you drop! Buy a new book for yourself this week, whether in paper, audio, or digital format.

6) Another way to support your fellow writer is to check out books from your local library. Many people may not be aware of this, but if a book sits for too long on the shelf, it eventually makes it way to the book sales and out of circulation. Libraries have limited space and cannot afford to keep books around that aren't checked out year after year after year. So save your favorite author's place at the library and make sure you check out their books!

7) Attend a local poetry reading or a book signing in your area. There's nothing worse than reading at an empty coffee shop.

8) If you are a t-shirt geek like me, you can find lots of book related shirts on Cafepress. My two favorite writing shirts in my dresser are from Hamlet and Edgar Allan Poe. While Shakespeare and Poe are both six feet under, I'm still a fan and support their work! There are other items book related. Perhaps, a little gift shopping is in order. You can also check out your favorite author's site and see if they have merchandise for sale. (I'm a big fan of the Kim Harrison's burning bunny pins.)

In the spirit of this article, I posted a list of writing/book blogs yesterday.

If you have other suggestions you would like included, please feel free to either post them in Comments or email me and I will add them here.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The 2 B's: Blogs About Books and Being a Writer

In the interest of promoting other writers, their work, and your own writing, I spent the better part of the afternoon trolling the web for the best writing and book review blogs I could bring you, my dedicated reader. Some of these are already featured in my blog roll, but I found a lot of new ones to cure cubicle boredom, guarantee your wallet will suffer a heart attack from over-purchasing this week, your library will very happy to see you, and your fingers will be sore from typing all those stories crammed inside your kooky cranium!

A Humble List of Writing and Book Blogs (in no particular order)
Mystery Writing is Murder: Author Elizabeth Span Craig describes herself on her writing blog as, “A laptop wielding, mystery-writing, mom who metes out murder on the keyboard. She has a great blog list for writers and readers and her articles are entertaining and well written.
Brainpan Leakage: Drippings from warped mind of paranormal thriller author M.R. Sellars: A witty, conversational writing style that makes for an entertaining read. He also has a good blog list to choose from.
Mike Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): A creative, entertaining writer with a world of experience who takes letter writing to another level.
Aobibliophile: A book review site.

William Meikle: Pulp fiction author William Meikle discusses his work, writing tips, and books.

She Never Slept.Com: Science fiction and horror genre reviews galore.
All Things Considered:A blog by Gina Collia-Suzuki: Art historian, history nut, writer, artist, vegetarian foodie, bibliophile, child of the Enlightenment, friend of Charles Darwin, full-time rat fancier and part-time assassin.”

Red Ravine: Two writers share their craft. “We write because we are fascinated with words dancing on the page.”

Bookslut: The place for a bibliophile to be.

The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar: Hone your craft and get a few giggles.
Backstory:Where authors share secrets, truths, logical and illogical moments that sparked their fiction or memoirs.”

Flogging the Quill: Author Ray Rhamey discusses “pursuing the art and craft of compelling storytelling.”

Slushpile.Net: Writing tips and news, book reviews and more.

SciFiGuy.Ca: Everything speculative fiction related.

YAReads: Everything young adult related in the writing industry.
Galleycat: Industry news, tips, and more.

Emerging Writers Network: A blog created to promote new writings with promise.

Literary Kicks: Exploring “the meaning and relevance of literature in modern life.”

Skulls in the Stars: Covering quirky science and vintage science fiction and classic pulp fantasy and horror.

Judge a Book by its Cover: Funny blog dedicated to judging book covers.

Jane in Progress: The former writer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, and other popular shows offers script-writing advice to newbies.
Bookshelves of Doom: A kid lit blog by one librarian.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Supersize Your Stories: A Writing Exercise

With the weather getting warmer, I've been thinking about an old pet of mine, Lu the Praying Mantis. Lu was an adult female native to Albuquerque, NM. She literally hitched a ride home on me from the walking trail one warm afternoon.

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I enjoyed caring for her and later that same year Lu laid an egg sack. We actually hatched the babies the following spring after we moved to Dallas, Texas. That was quite the experience. Most of them we released, but we kept a few and managed to raise one to adulthood, who became Lu #2.

I've always been a bug girl; yes, I was that weird tomboy who used to feed pill bugs to the spiders on my porch, catch grasshoppers in peanut butter jars, and make obstacle courses out of paper cups, toilet paper tubes and toothpicks for the caterpillars I caught to run through. My mother was constantly worried I would bring home something that could hurt me, but I never did, though I did suffer a nasty carpenter ant bite one day that surprised me. When I saw submissions for a giant creature anthology scheduled for 2009 from Permuted Press, I was all in. I instantly started thinking about one of my favorite schlocky B-movies, Them! Them! is a 1954 black and white film about giant killer ants that threaten humanity. I proceeded to write my first giant creature story featuring a praying mantis inspired by 1950s science fiction. It didn't get accepted, but I had a great time writing it. Permuted Press published Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror in 2009.

So today, if you're looking for a new story idea and feeling playful, why not supersize one of your favorite things? It doesn't have to be an insect or even an animal. It could be a teacup or your favorite car. Make your art larger than life. Be creative and have fun! You can make a human character larger than life by exaggerating their looks or their personality strengths and weaknesses, or aim for the stars and create a larger than life setting for a new story. Open your story with your characters trapped inside a giant drainpipe or baking the world's largest pizza. Do something unique! I've love to hear your ideas.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers? - #13

I've been in bed this week feeling under the weather, but I have five new books to share with you.

I broke down and bought a copy of Kim Harrison's Pale Demon, even though I don't own any of the other books. I just couldn't wait for it at the library. The latest installment of Harrison's Hollows series did not disappoint. I am still recovering from Matalina dying in the last book, which brought a tear to my eye, but Jenks, Ivy, and the gang were back on track helping chauffeur Trent Kalamack cross-country on an elf quest. We also got an even closer look at Morgan's relationship with Al and the demons, which has been shaping up to be an interesting subplot. (I will not give away anything here, as the outcome of this book will blow you away). Don't worry; nobody dies. That's all I'll say. Check out this book.

Then I sunk my teeth into Stephen King's new novella collection, Full Dark, No Stars. Wow! What can I say that is bad about this book, but that it ended too soon! If you are a King fan, pick this one up. He is back in top storytelling form with this new release. So sad I finished this book and there's no more from King for awhile. I hate when that happens. I gobbled this like chocolate cake with no regrets; a man who murders his wife for money and is haunted by her ghost, a successful mystery writer raped on her way home from a book signing in the middle of nowhere seeking revenge, a man dying of cancer at 51 who makes an irresistible deal with the devil, and a woman who discovers after over twenty-some years of marriage that her husband is a famous serial killer. It was raw, harsh, and dirty. King makes no apologies in his afterword, in which he discusses getting into the darkness of his stories with a brutal honesty. He also mentions again that he writes for himself, not for the money, which is something as a writer I respect.

I switched gears then with a steampunk short story collection, Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology edited by Nick Gevers. This collection had me psyched, but after reading the entire book only four stories really stuck with me. It's not that it wasn't well written because it was; I just wasn't feeling the subject matter in many of the tales. However, there are four authors I'd like to shed some light on; James Lovegrove, Margo Lanagan, James Morrow, and Keith Brooke. Mr. Lovegrove opened the series with a bang not a whimper, as T.S. Eliot would say, writing Steampunch, a nice little tale about the creation of professional wrestling robots. Who doesn't love a good robot story? This one is not to miss! My next gem in the collection was Ms. Lanagan's Machine Maid, which turned out to be a disturbing tale of a Victorian housewife with a robot maid and a penchant for revenge against her callous husband who uses her for his own sexual pleasure. If you are a male, you might find this story particularly disturbing. I know I am not and I did! Mr. Morrow's short story, Lady Witherspoon's Solution, was just as deviant and quite an interesting perspective coming from a male writer as it dealt with the castration of famous Victorian criminals in a very unique way and focused on the evolution of the human species. Do not skip this tale of the dark heart of man! And you can follow it up quite nicely with Keith Brooke's Hannah, which addresses the ethical question of cloning DNA in Victorian times and nature vs. nurture.

From robots and mad scientists I turned my attention to the kinder, gentler realm of wizards and demons in  Cinda Williams Chima's YA fantasy novel, The Demon King: Seven Realms #1. This was an entertaining YA novel, but for adults, I feel it was a little predictable. However, for teens and preteens I think it's the perfect opening book in a series. There's Raisa, the tomboy princess who feels smothered by her mother, the Queen, and two boys, Han and Fire Dancer, coming of age and finding themselves - typical teenage emotions. It's fast-paced and well written.

On from demons to wizards to the creation of the atomic bomb in Ellen Klages's The Green Glass Sea! This YA novel actually moved me to tears; there I was around 1AM crying in bed last night while my husband snored innocently beside me. I couldn't put this book down yesterday. Klages's main character, Dewey, was such a touching, tender, girl. The story follows her journey of friendship with another girl on the Los Alamos base, Suze. This gem was well written and offers a poignant message about the invention of the atomic bomb, offering a unique look into part of America's dark past. I highly recommend it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to rereading Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Writing Exercise: Creating a Character

Sometimes I find my zany imagination throws me a good story plot without a character and vice versa. This morning, I've been thinking about my muse, Wendy Wench. I've mentioned her on my blog, but haven't really written much about her. I'm going to fix that today.

Here's a writing exercise for you to try:

What or who is your muse? Sit down and brainstorm ideas. Write what comes to you without editing for the next fifteen minutes. What does your muse look like? What do they talk like? Would they even be human?

This is my completed exercise. I've only edited for punctuation and spelling, so you can get an idea of how my brainstorming process works for me. In fifteen minutes I managed to write about 2 pages.

I don’t know exactly when I met Wendy Wench. It seems she’s been with for a very long time in spirit, but I didn’t actually pay attention to her until a few months ago when I heard a shrill irate voice screaming from my desk drawer to be let out. Wendy Wench is a curious woman and one that you should not turn your back on. If you do, she’s liable to holler at you all day and night while taking nips from a silver flask engraved with whales. This leads me to believe that she is from some faraway sea village, but she has never spoken of her home. I do know that she owns a black cat named Ink who has a penchant for fish and tends to steal my pens from my desk drawer, if I leave it open and unattended.

Wendy Wench is a tiny woman, but you can’t miss her loud mouth. She stands about three inches tall, wears long, broomstick skirts and peasant blouses in very dark colors; except for one day a month in which she wears bright pink and I have no idea why. She likes to sleep and when she’s not sleeping she is perching on a book or two next to my laptop, if I have let her out of her drawer or she’s off doing whatever a wench does when left to their own devices. When she’s been gone for a couple of days she always comes back happier and with the oddest ornaments in her hair like bits of aluminum foil and glass washed up on the beach and pop bottle tops.

She smells of earthy things like ginger, lavender, and thyme. And her eyes are the green of the grass and the leaves on the trees right after a storm before the sun comes out. Her hair is sometimes brown and sometimes the color of poppies or eggplant, depending on her mood and what time of year it is. It wears her like a mantle, wild and unkempt and sometimes there are tiny knots that look like the work of the fae. She speaks with an Irish brogue or a British accent or even an American accent at times. I think this is to fool me and keep me guessing. But I have heard her play a mean tin whistle and she is fond of singing traditional Irish lullabies.

She has a foul mouth when angry and is quicker than a wasp to sting you with her words, but praises you if you write well. She steals my silverware. I’ve found on more than one occasion a fork with the tines bent every-which-way, knives creased into quarters, and spoons curled into round O’s all jumbled together into weird sculptures belonging in the modern section of the art museum. She also collects odd bits of string and feathers from crows and jays and other birds that she ties together in bundles and hangs around her neck.

Every finger is adorned with at least one silver ring or more. When she talks her hands glint in the sunlight, blinding me, if she is very excited. She often loses her voice late at night after talking for hours and hours about a Neil Gaiman story she read or a Charles Vess painting she likes. She enjoys stories with selkies and sea monsters and mermaids. And she loves her men. She likes them tall, dark, and redheaded with long hands like musicians. She also is curious about cameras and loves taking pictures, but not having her picture taken. She keeps a collection of negatives that she’s scrounged from people’s garbage cans in her desk drawer. She likes watercolor because it is painting with water. In fact, I think she likes water elementals best. I often hear her talking of missing the sea, though which I one I don’t know, as I have said before I do not know where she came from.

END

I hope you've enjoyed this exercise. Perhaps, you've gotten a new character to stick in one of your own stories. If not, at least you got some writing time in today and learned a little more about my muse. I know I did.

I'd love to hear about your own muse, if you care to post a short bit of your exercise or email me.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

Friday, April 1, 2011

How to Prepare for a Book Release by Guest Blogger Lillian Brummet

There are many things that authors can do long before their book is
released, but it is never too late to begin or enhance a marketing
plan. My first suggestion is to get a great stack of paper to jot
notes on. Personally, I reuse sheets of paper that have only been
printed on one side. Make sure you have a couple of pens handy; using
two colors is helpful for organizing and grouping ideas. Oh! – And
have a thermos of any kind of refreshment you choose next to you,
because this is going to take a while!

OK. Got all those? Now is the time to sit at your computer and scan
through the last 6 months worth of the previous postings on every
section of your favorite writer's forum and your publisher's author
forum. It is important to read the messages with headings like "new
author" because the actual message may have crucial information. I
know, this sounds like a lot of reading, but you will get efficient
at scanning messages and determining if they hold useful information
without having to digest every single word.

The reason for all this reading?

You will learn about reviews, marketing, promotion materials, media
kits, book production processes, resources, the publisher's policies,
royalty information, distributor information... it is all there. With
this information you can easily get a head start on your marketing
plan. Another reason for doing this is to find reliable mentors in
your field of interest.

Effective, long-term networking through interacting with your peers
on forums can easily lead up to exchanging of links, promotion
materials and multi-author book events. These individuals will soon
become your online friends who show up and support your media events,
tell others about your work and will help you if they can. Of course,
this means that you might have to offer something first to get the
ball rolling for networking.


~ Lillian Brummet: Award winning author, book marketing guru, owner
of the award winning Brummet’s Conscious Blog, and both the host and
executive producer of the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio show.
(http://www.brummet.ca/)