Thursday, December 31, 2009

December Sum-Uption

Well, I managed to do a large scale revision on the Cass book to give the CWCers an updated draft. Since I had already worked on revising the first half or so, and since my revision plan was focused on rearranging/adding fairly big chunks vs. fine tuning, I thought it'd go quickly. Ha!

But, the good news is that I got almost everything I wanted to change changed. The last twenty-ish pages still have a detail I'm going to axe, but I ran out of time. On the whole, however, I'm satisfied that the novel is more cohesive. We'll see what the gang thinks.

This month flew by, and I did some over-reaching, but I got a lot done. Now for about a week and a half of break, then it's back into the trenches with the beginning of spring semester. Whew.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Small, Slow Edits

I'm making slow, but steady, progress on my big revision expedition. Right now I'm still going through the first part, which I went through once already a few months ago. The edits right now are small, but my pace is not as quick as one would think.

The funny thing about these minor edits is that you lose time on the scavenger hunt part of it. A little bit here, a little bit there, and you have to find the spots first. Up to a certain limit, big edits go faster 'cause it's just a matter of taking out a certain page and re-writing it. You're honed in, focusing on just that certain scene.

Small edits, tweaking edits, are more all over and they creep up on you unexpectedly, like when I was doing one edit and realized I had to pause to do a find & replace jobbie on two characters' names that changed over the course of drafting.

Once I get further into the pages, I expect my pace will quicken as I run into the parts that need bigger chunks revised. Or, maybe there'll be so much in those big chunks that I'll slow down. Hard to say right now. I'll find out soon enough, though.

What about you? What kinds of edits can you do the most quickly? What kinds of editing take you the longest?

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Not-So-Restful Break

Boy did I ever pick the wrong month to submit a whole novel to the CWC bunch. Between defending my thesis, finishing up a semester, and picking up some seasonal work, I've been going pretty much flat-out for weeks. I've had too much other stuff going on to focus on Cass, and now I've got a week to finish editing and make copies for our next meeting.

Gosh, where does the time go? But, time's not going to slow down just for me, so I've got to speed up. I'm at the coffee shop right now, doing some out of the house pages. I'm making decent time, thank goodness, but I haven't gotten to the parts that are going to be pretty labor-intensive. Instead, I'm starting at the beginning and working through in order.

Right now I've got about 27 pages down out of a 203 page manuscript. However, I have some additions to make, so my final draft this go-around is going to be closer to 225 or more. The advantage, though, to doing all of this at once is that there's no down time for me to forget details/plot points/etc.

I tell you what, though, come December 29th, all I'm doing all day is sitting at home in my PJs and watching TV.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ending WPW

I've decided to discontinue writing prompt Wednesdays for the time being. They were fun for a while, but now they're feeling more like work and I've got plenty of other work to focus on.

Thanks to everyone who played along!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Poetry Hijacking

I spent some time at the bar the other night, listening to a band and reading over a few of Jenny's serial killer poems (Jenny talks about them a bit in this post). While I was there, I ran into a gal I know and her first question was, "What are you reading?"

When I told her I was reading a series of poems about Ted Bundy (I had read the Edmund Kemper series earlier that day), there was some eyebrow raising, followed by, "Can I see?"

I handed her one. She read it. Then she motioned for me to hand her the rest of the stack. I passed over about thirty more poems. Right then in there, in the dim light of a crowded bar while a local band played loudly on the other side of the room, she read every single one of them.

Now, I've got to say, if you've never had the experience of watching someone else read a series of poems about a serial killer, it's interesting. Mostly there was a lot of big eyes. In a few places, her hand flew to her mouth in classic startled/horrified form. Once or twice, she leaned over to her boyfriend (who had tried to read, but couldn't on account of the bad light) and read a stanza or two out loud to him.

I did get the poems back, eventually, but I had to wait patiently until this woman was finished, because I would have had to wrestle them away from her otherwise. I didn't want to risk it, so I took another sip of my cocktail and turned to watch the band while she read.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Everything Is Relative

Sasha: How'd it go last night?
Phil: Well, a lot of things were broken, sinks were puked in, people were punched in the face, and there was a minor incident where the end table caught on fire.
Sasha: Pretty quiet then.
Phil: Downright mellow, even.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pedal to the Metal

And Bam! December is upon us. I'm glad Jenny's up to submit tonight at CWC, because I didn't make any progress on revising Cass at all. This past month was a classic case of over-reach and I took on more than I should have. Whoops.

The good news is that December means Christmas break, and some time for me to put my nose to the grindstone and focus, focus, focus on revision without the responsibilities of teaching.

So, my overall goal for December is awfully simple: get stuff done. I foresee a lot of time spent at coffee shops with my laptop in my future. I've already got a pretty clear idea of what my revisions are going to focus on, so I'm hoping that will help speed things along. That, and, of course, the caffeine from all that coffee ;)

For you this month, I'm putting forth the challenge to push on. Take big bites, keep up your NaNo momentum, etc. Finish 2009 with a roar.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Smile, INC.

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.**

They ask me why I'm not smiling. As if it's some kind of sin to sit at my desk, focus on my work, and not smile. As if sitting here with a straight face is as bad as going around, smacking people on the back of the head. Not, mind you, that I'm particularly opposed to the idea. They're all a bunch of mouth-breathing, pen-clicking, fish-microwaving imbeciles who wouldn't know a 10-14 form if it punched them in the eye.

Yet, here I am, restraining myself. If those losers really want me to smile, there need to be a few changes around here. As you may imagine, I have quite an extensive list of said changes. But, to be honest with you, all I really need, and I mean bare essentials here, is a completely working espresso machine. I've got the perfect one all picked out and it's on sale for eight grand. All they need to do is put that beauty in the break room and then I'll love everyone. I don't think that's so unreasonable, do you?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Character Thoughts, Revision, and Guiding Principles

There's another good post over at Edittorrent. This one looks at character, which I'm all about this month, and I've started thinking about it in relation to Cass. I have a pretty good idea about her first principle and how it gets her into trouble. As I work on revision, I'm thinking about ways I can draw that out a little more to help solidify her character and especially to make her more sympathetic, which is a struggle I'm having.

At the last meeting, Jenny commented on a few portions of the sub which I had missed when I was switching a scene over to 3rd person from 1st. Believe it or not, Jenny liked the 1st person better. Even though I've changed things over so the reader isn't in Cass's head, it seems I need to get them in there anyway. Jenny, ever helpful, suggested I re-write the whole thing to 1st person, and do it in two months. She smiled when she said it, too. How evil is that?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Abandon All Hope

Wow. Oh, wow. I just caught up on this past week's episode of Supernatural, titled "Abandon All Hope," and it packed quite a punch. This season is the big whammy, all about the apocalypse and it is, presumably, the last season of the show - and that's because the show's creator planned it that way, not because the show isn't doing well.

So, fifth season plus the apocalypse means all bets are off. This last episode really brought that home. Over at Edittorrent, there's been some talk about the dark moment. Despair, desperation, and all that good stuff. It's appropriate timing.

This episode was played out masterfully. We start with our heroes teaming up with some allies to go on a mission to attempt to kill the devil. No small feat, right? It's an impossible task, and stupid to even try it, but as Sam so succinctly says, "When have we ever been smart?" The night before the show down, Bobby has everyone pose for a picture, because it might be the last picture any of them take. It's slightly cheesy, but fitting.

By the time we get to the end of the episode, a huge sacrifice has been made and the outlook, which was previously pretty bleak, has turned even bleaker. In the last few seconds before the credits, one of the characters takes the group photo, looks at it for a moment, then tosses it in the fireplace. The camera watches the photo burn, then fades out.

It's a relatively small gesture, but incredibly powerful. They have so little hope left, that they've tossed aside even the little bit of hope that comes from remembering the fallen. After all, you have to be alive to remember.

We've officially hit the dark moment of this season's arch, and I have a feeling it's going to get even darker yet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Dark Moment

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.**

We zoom in from above, the camera whizzing down, going from a view of the world, to the outlines of a country, county, neighborhood, until finally we're in a living room, face to lens with the protagonist. A man in his mid-thirties with a receeding hairline and a knife in his hand stands over a body with a pool of blood spreading beneath it.

This is the moment he surrenders to despair, certain that there is no way out. He's standing over the body of a man he killed and there is no way the police will believe it was self defense. He could try to explain that the dead man was going to kill him tomorrow, that he saw the scene in a vision and came here to turn fate, that the only reason he broke into the house and stabbed this man was to save himself. No, the police won't buy a story of pre-emptive self defense.

The protagonist drops the bloody knife. His hand is shaking, but his knees refuse to bend and even now he can hear, far off in the distance, the sound of sirens. The dead man's wife must have escaped. She can identify him, too. The sirens grow louder and the protagonist's legs hold him firm to the spot with his prints on the knife and his hands covered in blood.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


The new issue of The Absent Willow Review came out yesterday and I've been looking over some stories. I just read one, called Mapmaker, that I wanted to pass along to all of you because I think it's quite beautiful and well-written. I hope you take a few minutes (it's short) to read it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The First Line

Spurred on by getting a story accepted, I've been cruising duotrope, researching more places to submit. I want to pass on one particular publication, because I think it'd be a fun adventure. It's called The First Line and it's rather reminiscent of WP Wednesdays. They provide a first line, you write a story to go with it, and the ones they like the best are published in the next issue.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Needle and Thread

There are few things that brighten one's day like getting a message that says,
"Dear Ali –
Thank you for submitting your story for our consideration. I am pleased to inform you that “Needle and Thread" has been accepted and will appear in the February 16, 2010 issue of The Absent Willow Review. Please continue submitting and thank you for sharing your work with us!"

I'm excited.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thesis Defended

My thesis defense was last night, and I was successful. Now it's a matter of completing the adiministrative aspect, i.e. paperwork, and submitting my materials to Fort Collins. The thesis process is just about over.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WPW Replacement

Instead of the regularly scheduled programming, I'm going to put up some thesis stuff. I'm up to my eyeballs preparing for my defense tomorrow, so I'm spreading it around. As part of the defense, I'll be distributing a single-spaced, one page handout that is designed to succinctly sum up 130+ pages of text, 25 pages of which are ultra dense critical analysis.

It's rather like squeezing a linebacker into a shoe box. Without further ado, here is the shoe box:

Overview: Into the Water features eight stories written in the mode of magical realism. These stories loosely trace a timeline beginning during the early colonization of North America and ending in the modern day. They explore an intersection between European and Native American folklore, using animal totems as each main character has a literal animal that acts as a guide to bring that character to a resolution within the story. While the stories are designed to stand alone, there is also a framework where the stories can be read as stories-with-a-story, framed by the first story, “There Once Was a Little Boy Who Walked Very, Very Far” and the last, “Needle and Thread.” They are the two most contemporary stories and both have the same main character.

Magical Realism: A description originally born of the writings of German art critic Franz Roh in 1925 and used to describe a style of art in which everyday subjects were presented “in such a way that the normal became unfamiliar” (Reeds 178). Later, Spanish writer José Ortega translated Roh’s work, taking liberties in the translation and applying the term to literature. This is where the association of magical realism with Latin America culture comes from as well as its use to describe literature “in which magical and realistic elements coexist with equal status” (Warnes 488).

Magical realism can be described in terms of the merger between the realistic and fantastic and analyzed on a spectrum which goes from the use of magic in a literal sense (ontological), where magic is a real force, and the use of magic as natural phenomenon (phenomenological), or something which could be explained as something other than magic (Reeds).

Stories in Into the Water fall along both sides of the spectrum.
Ontological stories: “When Bridgette Went Into the Water,” “Albatross,” “The Honeymoon of Mr. and Mrs. Roux,” and “Charlie’s Ghost.”
Phenomenological stories: “There Was Once a Little Boy Who Walked Very, Very Far,” “An Ocean Kind of Blue,” “The Movement of a Heart,” and “Needle and Thread.”

Cultural Studies: The main trait of magical realism is that of merger, which makes it an excellent genre for cultural considerations. J.M. Wise uses the term “third culture kids” to describe the cultural identity of those who have dual cultural background. This “third culture” is a hybrid creation. As an American of German descent, I identify with this hybridization and it is a theme which Into the Water is based in. The main characters are born of the hybridization of European culture and Native American culture as well as the hybridization of human and animal. In this way, using the mode of magical realism allowed me to express the exploration of culture by making cultural hybridization literal through symbolism.

Other Unifying Symbolic Motifs:
Water, which is traditionally associated with rebirth and change. “When Bridgette Went Into the Water” uses this symbolism when Bridgette crosses the Atlantic ocean to become the first (chronological) character to be changed by magic.
Birds, especially birds of prey, and specifically the falcon. Common falcon symbolism associates the bird with sight/illumination, which reinforces the role of the falcon as totem guide in the stories “There Once Was a Little Boy Who Walked Very, Very Far” and “Needle and Thread.”

Next Steps:
I have submitted stories from this collection for publication (they’re currently being reviewed by multiple magazines). I completed the first draft of a short novel of 53,000 words, Crossroads Promise, in September. The novel continues to develop the mythology introduced in Into the Water. I have now begun revisions on the novel, and, after another review, will begin submitting that novel to agents.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Defense Prep

This weekend my goal is to focus on preparing to defend my thesis. Yesterday I met with Juan for a few minutes to give me an idea of where to focus my preparation.

Juan: I can't tell you the specific questions we'll ask.
Me: Right.
Juan: But, in broad strokes, here's what might come up...

I jotted some notes. It was pretty much what I expected would come up, so no worries there. My prep. plan is to review everything I've written (i.e. re-read the whole shebang). Then, I'm going to write out notes for myself with some key points from the critics I discussed in my intro as well as a list of authors who've influeced me for this project and key points about them too.

Also, as part of my defense, I'll be spending a few minutes reading an excerpt from the fiction part.

All together, here are the steps of the defense itself:
1. I talk for about 15-20 minutes about my thesis
2. My committee members ask me questions about the theory/fiction (this is the defense part)
3. The audience has a chance to ask questions
4. Everyone leaves the room so the committee can confer & decide if I "pass" or not
5. The committee members sign some paperwork

After the defense, there's more administrative/paperwork type stuff to do, then my thesis goes to Fort Collins, and I get my degree about one semester later. So, you know, it's home stretch type stuff right now, which is nice.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WPW: Alice

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.**

He calls her Alice
because he likes the sound of the name slipping through his lips
shimmery and smooth like a fish.
He whispers the name to himself
saying, "Alice" so soft that he's the only one who hears it.
The name is like a present he gives himself and he says it slowly,
letting the sounds of the letters go out and out like kite string.
He calls her Alice
even though Alice is not her name.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Think Globally

Hey look, October's over. Deb and Jenny have already got their November's plotted out. Me, I'm trying to think of a worthy goal for the month. NaNo? No way. It's tempting, but I've got too much revision on my plate, because I'm on the block for CWC in December. We're talking a completely revised Cass, with some overall adjustments to characters & plots. I've got a pretty solid idea of where I'm going, it's just a matter of actually going there. It'll also entail adding a couple thousand words. So, yeah, no NaNo for me.

Though, that leads me to a perfecto November goal. When I talk with my comp. students about revision, I always emphasize big-picture revision (global) over proofreading (local), because if the ideas aren't there, nobody cares about your commas.

Global revision is what I need with Cass. Ergo, this month's challenge is to look at the grander scheme. Details are good, details are wonderful, but you've got to have the bones before you can flesh them out. Whatever project you're working on, now's a good time to take a step back and ask the big questions:

1. What's the point of writing this thing? What am I trying to express?
2. If my reader gets nothing but one thing out of this, what's that one thing? How do I make sure that's what they walk away with?
3. Do all my parts - characters, scenes, complications, sub-plots - somehow serve my grander scheme?
4. What's the best order in which to put all these parts together?
5. Are readers responding to my characters the way I want them to? If not, how can I change that?
6. Am I making things hard enough for my characters? Are their challenges difficult enough?
7. Why today? Why is this plot happening now?

There are plenty more that could get added to the list, but those are some examples of big picture questions I'll be working on during my big Cass revision. Some of the questions - like #5 - come right from critique comments I've gotten. Others - like #1 - are more all-purpose. All of them are good to know the answers to.

How about you, do you have any good questions/ways of focusing on the big picture?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WPW: Keeping Time

Lucinda is a brilliant time keeper. And then she draws up the tops, and makes a little lid, and there is a little moment of time preserved. The time keeps for at least a decade, longer if you store it somewhere cool and dark. Others, the best they can do is two years, tops. Lucinda, though, she's got them all beat. One of these days, I'm going to learn her secret.

Monday, October 26, 2009


It's officially that time in the semester. It's the time when my roster says the class has 20 students and eight are actually present. The time when writing projects become longer and more complex, therefore meaning more time to grade each. The time when we go through writing projects more quickly since students have had some practice earlier in the semester.

It's also the time I have various alternate projects that are in the works, with some very near to deadlines.

I feel not quite like I've got a lot of balls in the air, but rather like I've got a ball, a bowling pin, a crystal wine glass, an egg, a bean bag, an apple, a butterknife, and a scarf. Up and down, around and around, watch how they fly through the air.

CWC tonight. It feels good to know I did my critique last week. There's one thing I don't have in the air right now. And, since I'm getting critiqued I didn't have to make copies this go 'round. This was a light CWC month for me, thank goodness.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thesis Defense

It's official, folks. My thesis is pretty much done. I'll be defending Thursday, November 12. Then it's off to Fort Collins for approval.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Suspension of Disbelief

On Deb's recommendation, I checked out the first few episodes of Glee Club. It's fun, and musical, and often snarky. Hard to lose. Out of curiosity, I hit IMDB and looked up a couple of the actors. Unsurprisingly, all the actors portraying high schoolers are older than the majority of my college students. A bigger surprise - a large number of them are older than me. The captain of the football team is about ten years too old for the part. Hilarious.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WPW: Voicemail

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.**

9:18 p.m.
"Danny? Danny, are you there? Pick up the phone. Please, Danny, answer. I need your help."

9:21 p.m.
"Where are you? You're the only one who can come get me."

9:26 p.m.
"Oh God, I just heard a noise. Is that just the wind? Please tell me it was just the wind."

9:32 p.m.
"Danny, when you get this, come straight over. I heard that noise again. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone."

9:39 p.m.
"Where are you?! I saw it, I saw it. It's real. I'm hiding in the guest room. I can't call 911, they'll think I'm crazy. I think it's a werewolf."

9:44 p.m.
"Danny! It's breaking down the door! I can't hold it much longer. Danny you have to-"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reconstructing Oracle

Ugh, what a mess. Between moving a couple years ago and getting a new computer, my original Oracle stuff is in shambles. I have no electronic file for the first 50 or something pages (hard to say exactly what I'm missing, 'cause it's gone) and one of the later chapters is likewise missing. What I do have are the following:
  • A list on a post-it that shows which chapters were in which character's POV
  • My original notebook where I wrote the first big chunk out long hand
  • Some assorted hardcopies with comments from my original go-around submitting it to the gang (though these assorted hardcopies don't account for all of the chapters I submitted, nor all the missing chapters)
  • The synopsis I submitted as I was running chapters through the group (so they could remember stuff that had happened in previous months' submissions)
  • My original note cards (now transferred to the Bible)
  • A series of individual chapter-files
  • My rewritten first chunk from the contest
As you can see, it's a little bit here, a little bit there, and it's all a bit incoherent. I'm trying to decide on the best way to tackle this, and so far the biggest thing I've decided is that it would be best to do a whole rewrite rather than trying to cut and paste the pieces. So, for some, that means a from-scratch rewrite like I did with the first part. For some, that means a transcription. Even for things I plan on doing a little bit of cut/paste, I think it would still be best to at least transcribe it from an old copy to a new file. It'll help make the style consistent and let me update what I originally had to what I decided to have later.

It's a bit overwhelming to think of, all together, so I'm focusing on the bits and pieces.
  • Print out the old stuff
  • Dig out my commented-on hardcopies from a couple years ago
  • Read through those parts
  • Print out the new stuff
  • Read through it, and make any corrections/additions I need in order to fit the earlier stuff that I'm going to keep
  • Start writing on from the new rewrite, transcribing from what I originally had and filling in what went missing
One step at a time, right? I think I'm going to need some chocolate. And, possibly, binder clips.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

10/8/09 WPW Roundup

Deb's made a mystery for us this week, with a woman and a fuchsia feather.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

WPW: Invisible People

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.**

The invisible people walk in soft soled shoes
with scarves around their necks that reach down to their waists
wearing big fuzzy sweaters
and pants made of anything but courdoroy.

The invisible people lean against walls,
blending in by not moving
until you pause, just close enough
for one of them to whisper in your ear.

Listen close.
They will only say it once.

In Case You Need It

Today I got my Thesis preface back from Katherine and Juan, written over with notes for at least one more revision. To combat my bummed-ness, I hopped over to youtube for a GBS fix, starting with "Ordinary Day." I thought I'd pass on the resulting good vibes:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October Challenge: Quite the Character

Convergence is a good word. It's like relevance, or coincidence, or anything else we talk about when we talk about things lining up. For October, I'm taking my cue from convergence and focusing on character.

A common critique theme during the last CWC meeting was discussing characters. Edittorrent is doing a series of posts about strong character development and POV. And, to top it all off, I'm back into the swing of Oracle, where I'm juggling a pretty big cast of characters, six of whom are POV characters. See the convergence?

Switching around between characters means it's that much more important that each character's voice/perspective be unique and true to that particular character. I've got to really make my 42 year-old ruffian different from my 19 year-old inn keeper's daughter. To start, I've got to hammer down what makes each tick and what their goals are, etc. They're all getting swept up in the big adventure, but they're each invested for different reasons, which colors how they see the world, which colors everything else. So, I've got to make sure that Sedge doesn't bleed into Arnell, or else it's just not going to work.

I've got my character sheets in my world building bible, but I'm thinking I might need to redo them in a format where I can add more detail, like notes about each character's goals and motives. They're generally clear in my head, but not always articulated, so I think jotting things down would help.

How about you? What can you do this month to really flesh out the characters in your current project?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

September Squeeze

Last month was a very full month. My goal was to squeeze more out of it and I'm calling it officially squoze.

Highlights: another revision of my thesis and 40,000+ words drafted, including the end of the Cass book and a new start on Oracle. Thanks to the bet, I know that Boudreau, Deb, and Jenny also got a heck of a lot done last month. Three cheers for all those who are willing to put it on the line.

How about you? How did your September go?

Friday, October 2, 2009

World Building & Bibles

This past Sunday, the UGWP group got talking about the issue of world building. There was debate about the best way to do it: if you over-plan, there's the danger of getting stuck in the planning phase without moving on to the writing phase; if you don't plan enough, there's the danger of having to wing it as you write, which leads to the danger of inconsistencies & confusion.
Me, I'm finding that it helps to do a Bible. The Bible starts off with me plugging in everything I already know about the story/characters/world, things like main characters, places, etc. This part came together with Cass after I had written a couple of Cass stories but before I started the novel. So, I had a good idea of certain things, but fuzzy idea on others.

Then, as I wrote and figured out details, I added them to the Bible. This worked pretty well.

Today I finally got a chance to put together my Oracle Bible. This came together a little differently than the Cass Bible, because I've worked on Oracle before, and because different things are important to remember in the world. Overall, though, both have a character section, a section for places, and a section, or two, devoted to relevant mythology. For Oracle, specifically, here's what's in the binder: a map; character sheets; location sheets; info sheets on the four major gods; notes on the world itself, like what their technology looks like; and I also added a sheet for all the names of all the characters to make sure I'm not naming everybody the same things - for instance I seem to really like male characters with names that end in "in" or "an."

As a side note, during my first go at Oracle I put together a sort-of Bible which was a small stack of index cards that I kept in an envelope I glued on the inside cover of the notebook I was writing Oracle in. It worked decent, but is kind of inefficient once I got a certain amount of notes to remember. The binder's more streamlined and keeps things from getting shuffled.

So, now we come to the audience participation part of the show. When you're working on a project/world building, what's your system?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WPW: MLIA Homage

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.** Today's WPW is brought to you in the style of My Life is Average

Today, I spent the morning
wandering around the house unshaven, in my oldest dressing gown, feeling vaguely scary, like a crazed uncle who has escaped from the attic. And then I remembered, I do that every day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

On Bets and Word Counts

I officially declare the 2009 write-off over with. Boy howdy, I am more than ready.

Technically, there's still about twenty minutes left to the contest, but Boudreau finished at 10:00, 'cause he's in another time zone, and I'm just plain done. Deb and Jenny have also said "finito."

Documents have been e-mailed between Boudreau and I and I've done a word count. I used Word for the sake of consistency - 'cause Boudreau and I have both used Open Office at points in the contest and it and Word count words differently (blech, dumb software). So, completed documents got opened in Word and counted.

Total Counts
Me: 40,870
Boudreau: 40,445
Deb: 17,007
Jenny: 11,262

Boy am I ever exhausted and brain-fried. I'm sure I'll have a post up in the next couple days that has more to say about the bet and what I learned from it, (like from doing a blind re-write on the 1st part of Oracle), but for today I've not got that much in me.

Instead, I'll just say an enthusiastic Congratulations! to everyone who participated. You've all done lots in the past two weeks, and I'm proud to have y'all to go up against. Without Boudreau's manic progress, I guarantee you I wouldn't have cranked out as much as I did. That's the beauty of competition.

You all are totally badass in my book, and I'm glad to know you. Now step away from the computer and go do something else.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pedal to the Metal

Today I learned that it is possible to write 10,000 words in one day. Now I am tired. That's all I have to say about that.

Home Stretch

We're almost at the end, folks. We're talking final push time. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WPW: *Sort of

*The pressure of the contest is catching up with me, so I'm interrupting your regularly scheduled Wednesday programming and, following Boudreau's lead, proffering an excerpt from my contest writing rather than the typical WPW fare. This bit comes from Oracle:

He broke the seal on the card, knowing full well that Nonna already knew exactly what it said. One of the luxuries her clients enjoyed was a private telegraph office operated by one of Nonna's staff. The seal on the card did not mean no one knew the message, but that only Nonna and her telegraph operator did. The message was from the Ordish temple and was one word long, “Come.” One could always rely on Corin for his elegant manners and courtesy. Arnell debated ignoring the summons, but if the matter warranted a midnight telegraph, there was a strong possibility it had to do with the trip Arnell had just returned from which meant Corin would be most displeased with being ignored.

Corin's displeasure, in and of itself, did not bother Arnell. He was about as concerned with the man's feelings as fuck all. However, Corin often made his displeasure felt in inconvenient ways. Last time Arnell irritated the high priest, Corin had sent the city guard after him, claiming Arnell had stolen five hundred coin from the temple vault. At the time, Corin had just paid him five hundred coin from the temple vault. Five hundred coin Arnell had on him at the time of his arrest. The city guard did not look kindly on the coincidence and the result had been a very unpleasant night for Arnell as he was roughed up by the guard and tossed in a dank cell to stew. Corin visited the next day and cleared up the “misunderstanding,” but the point had been made. The high priest was not a man to irritate lightly.

Arnell climbed out of the bath. “Duty calls.”

Monday, September 21, 2009


The Cass book now officially has a beginning, middle, and end. I just finished my first complete novel. It's a cool feeling.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ending, and Beginning Again

So, sometime tomorrow, or maybe the next day, there's a very real possibility that I'll have a completed draft of the Cass novel. I'm talking whole she-bang, people. It's an impressive thought. Of course, said draft will be far from perfect, and there's plenty of messiness to clean up, but I'll have a beginning, middle, and end. Whoo-doggie.

But, the contest doesn't end tomorrow, or the next day. That means I'm going to have to dive right into the next project. I've been thinking about going back to Oracle for a while now, (like what, a year and a half?) and it looks like the contest will necessitate this happening ASAP. It's exciting. (Not to mention exhausting. Trying to keep up with Boudreau is tough.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Long and Short of It

Yay! I've just hit the 10,000 word mark for my contest word count. Boudreau's still in the lead, but I'm staying ahead of Deb and Jenny, (until they read this, get fired up, and blow by me).

Today is also interesting for the sake of where I am in the Cass book. For a while, I've been thinking I was at a certain point in the plot, a point that I figured was about half way. But, as I've been doing the contest, having to keep up the pace made me rethink. Basically, I was thinking how certain other things needed to happen before I got going on the final show-down, except I couldn't figure out what those other things were. All I could think of was that I needed more "stuff" because I needed more pages before the big fight. Getting stuck on figuring out that "stuff" brought up a question that I might not have asked myself if I had lots of time to ponder and come up with "stuff." That question: "But, why?"

What's the purpose of waiting? Yeah, the fight itself is going to be kind of short, but there's still plenty of lead up to the fight. Characters need to do certain things, a certain set of actions need to happen. So, why not jump right in? I had an "aha!" moment, which was cool. The biggest problem I was having was second guessing myself - I've started a couple of novels, and even gotten to the end of the middle of one, but this is the first one I'm getting to the end of, and I was worried I was doing it wrong. Bah. Enough of that. Right now is the part where I just write it. Later, if it turns out I actually do need more stuff, I can add it in. It's a very freeing thought.

This morning, I deleted a couple of paragraphs of "stuff" so that instead of spacing out certain events, they were happening on top of each other. It's a lot more fun to write this way.

Okay, back to writing, it's time to beat the tar out of some characters.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

WPW Roundup: 9/17/09

In the midst of contest craziness, Boudreau offers a very meta WPW post.

As I Go Writing

I have discovered that my word processor does not recognize the word "lych." Nor does my web browser, or anything else. More's the pity. It's a good word.

In other news: It's nice to see the contest folk doing so well, though I admit I wouldn't mind a few of them doing a little less well. Punks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thesis Cutting Room Floor

Today, before I add any more words to Cass, I'm doing another revision pass on my thesis preface. One bit that I really like is getting cut, but I didn't want to murder it completely, and it's a pretty stand-alone-y paragraph, so I'm going to share it with you:

During the course of creating the collection, I became more and more interested in the possibilities of the mythology in it. The relationship between the animalistic and magical evokes cultures that believe in the supernatural as a course of fact. A shaman casts a spell and a sick child becomes well. Modern science explains the correlation as a placebo effect, but the child believes in the magic. Either way, the end result is the same. One way or another, the spell worked. I immediately thought of the Anthropology 451 course I took, titled “Culture/Deviance/Psychopathology.” During that course, we discussed Voodoo death, a very real, very extreme example of the effectiveness of a killing curse. Our human relationship with magic is ongoing, even in an era where we cleave to science as the explainer of all things. The genres of magical realism, urban fantasy, high fantasy, and modern fairy tales thrive and seem to say that, even now, science is not enough for us.

WPW: Thesis Progress

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.** (Yes, even with the word count contest, I'm still doing WPW. Of course, it is brief. (No, it doesn't count toward my word count.))

Nelly: How's things? How goes your thesis?
Ben: Well,
you know that weird pull to have everything spotless that I always get when there's something else that really needs to get done?
Nelly: Not going so well, then?
Ben: Well, let's just say, you could eat off my dog.

Monday, September 14, 2009


The contest is on!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On Your Marks... Get Set...

Today I went to the store to pick up some vitally important race supplies:

Dog Food: So Sherman doesn't starve when this bag is empty in a couple days
New Dog Toy & Rawhide: So Sherman can entertain herself
Scented Candle: To better facilitate butt-kicking Feng Shui
New Pens: With which to do some longhand writing while I've got the odd moment here and there but no computer handy
Cookies: To go with the caffeine in my spicy tea and to keep my blood sugar up

Task-wise, I've got just one or two more things I want to wrap up before tomorrow. I'm not sure if I'll wrap them up completely, but I'm pleased with how many things I've already crossed off my list. Metaphorically speaking, I think my calves and hamstrings are well-stretched to start the marathon tomorrow.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Contest Warm Up

Last time I did the writing contest, it was a spur-of-the-moment sort of thing. This time, it's all more planned out and I've decided to be a bit more strategic about it. Mostly, by that, I mean that I've got myself a warm up planned.

The first part of my warm up is simple - to get some other things done before Monday so I can have those things out of the way as I'm powering through pages. So, part of my warm up list includes writing my bio for the CWC website and doing all kinds of English 099 & 101 grading and planning.

The second part of my warm up is more focused on getting ready for the challenge itself. This part includes things like clearing off my kitchen table so I have a place to set up my laptop. I don't have wireless at home, so using my laptop means I won't have the temptations of e-mail, etc. while I'm working. Another part of this plan is to do some Cass edits to sort out a problem I was having with the bit just before the bit I'll be writing from scratch. This'll also help me get back into the project and ready to go.

Strategy, people. I has it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Samoas Incident

Betsy had just woken up from sleeping in and was still wearing her gray terrycloth robe. She still had curlers in her hair, the fuzz of a dream in her head, pillow creases on her face, and an empty spot in her stomach where breakfast was soon to go. In short, she didn't especially feel like answering the door.

But, there was always a chance it could be Publisher's Clearinghouse and the allure of a comically oversized check with lots of zeroes outweighed her vanity. She pulled the door open.

"Good morning Mrs. Sebastianson," said a little pig-tailed girl with a big smile full of braces.

"Er," said Betsy.

"My name is Sally. I live up the street." Sally pointed. Betsy waited for her to get to the point.

"The reason I've come today is I'm doing a fund raiser for school to help raise money for new basketballs for my gym class." Little Sally fumbled with a catalog.

Fund raiser? Betsy perked up. "Got any Samoas?"


"You know, Samoas. Cookies with caramel?"

Sally looked blank, then she held up the catalog. Page after page of stationary and flower bulbs. "You see, this is what we're selling."

"No Samoas then?"

"No, I guess not."

Betsy sighed. "Well, then." Betsy closed the door on little Sally. Maybe Publisher's Clearinghouse would come tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No More Slots/The Detailed Contest Terms

So, I made this bet, with whoever wanted to take me up on it, that I could write more than they could. Much to my surprise, not only did someone take me up on said bet, but three someone's did. I'm officially announcing that the contest is full. Love you lots, but if you haven't joined in yet, you'll have to wait for the next one (or start one yourself).

That said, let me introduce the contestants and lay out the terms.

Me, of course
Jenny, of the CWC
Deb, also of the CWC
and B. Freret, who is a mysterious figure I've only met via the internet

  • The contest will begin at midnight on Monday, September 14th.
  • During the contest, the goal is simple: write a lot of words. Those words will all go toward a specific, unified project (I'll be working on Cass).
  • If, during the contest, someone finishes their project - i.e. they've wrapped up their novel - then they start on their next project. However, the word count does not include miscellaneous stuff like personal e-mails, blog posts, etc. If it's not in the novel/story collection, it doesn't count.
  • Also, obviously, only words written during the contest itself count.
  • During the contest, each contestant will keep a running word count on their respective blog.
  • The contest will end on Sunday, September 27th. Given consideration for UGWP responsibilities/dinner, I'm going to make the deadline 12:00 noon.
  • No later than 12:01 p.m. on the 27th, each contestant will e-mail the others what they've written.
Okay, I think I've gotten all the important points. Oh yeah, the winner gets a free dinner. Now, Jenny and Deb are thinking the person with the lowest word count buys everybody else dinner, but I'm broke, so I'm thinking I'm going to see if I can talk them into changing that a bit - like, the losers pool their resources to buy the winner a meal. And Boudreau, well, I'm working under the assumption that Boudreau might not be in Colorado and thus may be unable to make the dinner. We'll see.

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's On

Yesterday I got all bravado-y, and Jenny's not letting me get away with it without a fight. Dang it. We're sorting out terms now. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Any Takers?

I've been thinking about the contest with John lately, and how it got me fired up and produced a ton of writing. Said bet happened last September and I'm in the mood to revisit it. My only difficulty is that I need someone to race against. So, I'm putting out an open invitation to anyone who thinks they can whip me in a word count contest. Think of it like a modified NaNoWriMo.

We can decide on specific terms, but the jist would be that you and I would start on a decided-upon date and crank out as many words as possible for about two weeks. We would each keep a running tally of our respective word count on our respective blogs, and at the end, the loser would by the winner some food/bake them cookies/whatever.

If you're game, respond to this post. If there is more than one person with the gumption to take this on, we can have a three-way ;)

The Squeeze

Hey look, it's September. You may have noticed, I dropped the ball on having an August challenge. By the time I realized I'd forgotten, it was already half way through the month so I decided to let it go.

But now it's September and it's time for another challenge. This one is simple: Do more.

I have three classes this semester and my major goal is to avoid the pattern I've tended to fall into during previous semesters - a pattern of focusing too much on the classes. Let me explain. By focusing too much, I don't mean I've worked too hard at teaching, because I don't think anyone ever can work too hard at being a good teacher. No, the key word here is "focus." Sometimes, the semester gets going and I start blowing off other things because I tell myself that teaching classes is enough work. I tell myself "It's so hard, I deserve a break from cooking/writing/taking Sherman for walks/whatever."

Not this semester, my friends. I've realized in the past that I'm capable of a whole heck of a lot, like whipping out 80 pages of brand new text during my bet with John. So, my challenge for myself this month is two-fold. Part one involves being efficient and on top of my preparations and grading for my classes. Part two involves maximizing my momentum from having an organized schedule again to keep up/catch up with other projects. They say if you really want something done, give the task to a busy person. It's time for me to be that highly efficient busy person again.

For you, I challenge you to take a hard look at your schedule and commitments. I know you're busy. I know you have a lot of important obligations. But, I also know that you can squeeze a little more out of your day. Maybe it's very little, but there's more to be had. A month from now, you might not care that you watched that movie, or took that extra long lunch break, but you'll probably care if you wrote 20 pages more than your goal. Most people have more time available to them than they realize, it's just a matter of squeezing the most out of your time. If you don't believe me, try making a schedule for yourself along the lines of
7 a.m.-7:20 a.m.: Breakfast
7:20 a.m.-7:30 a.m.: Get dressed...
If you can see where all your minutes go, it's a lot easier to get perspective.

Then, once you've figured out how you can squeeze a few more pages/visits to the gym/whatever out of your week, do it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

WPW Round Up: 9/3/2009

Boudreau had another go at WPW this week, with a post about Dora the Explorer and other adventures.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

WPW: The First Entry

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.**

Dear Diary,
Before we begin, there is something you should know about me, your narrator. You should know that the narrator a selfish asshole. It's all me, me, me, all the time. My therapist, or, rather, my ex-therapist, foolishly suggested that there was some kind of problem with this. But, what does he know? It's not like a Ph.D from Harvard suddenly makes you king of the universe. Jackass.

Anyway, Diary, now it's just you and me. Well, I mean, me and you. Except, really, you're just an extension of me anyway, so when you get right down to it, it's just me and me. And that, that is the way it should be. So, today is the first day of me telling myself all about me. I can't wait to get started.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Television Longing

September 10th needs to hurry up and get here already. I don't know how much longer I can stand it. Why am I so anxious? Because the 5th and final season of Supernatural starts on the 10th, aka the only one of my absolute favorite shows not written by Joss.

Hurry up, September.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

WPW Round Up

This week B. Freret offers us a bit of car-themed dialogue with a twist. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

WPW: The Giant Robot Bank Robbery

The robot was massive. Towering at over four stories tall, it loomed over most of the downtown buildings. Each step it took left a pothole large enough to fit a car, as evidenced by one particular foot step which was almost exactly the same size and shape as the Jeep Cherokee the robot had stepped on and flattened.

Laser beams shot from its eyes, vaporizing police cars, police officers, and any innocent bystanders who were too dumb or too slow to get out of the way fast enough. The robot stopped in front of the bank, reached into the brick building, and pulled out the vault. It attached a small device, which looked like a cell phone, but wasn't, to the vault. Lights blinked on the device for a moment, then held still. A safe cracker.

The robot leaned over with a well-oiled hiss. Its huge fingers carefully opened the vault door and, by virtue of Hoover-like suction, it vacuumed the cash and gold out with its thumb. By now the police had given up hope of stopping the heist and were working only to minimize casualties.

From across the street, in a third storey room with a window view, a man in a white jacket held a remote control. He pushed a button. Rocket thrusters came out of the sides of the robot's feet, they fired up and began to lift him away to a quiet, secret spot. The man in the white jacket jumped in glee. It had gone even better than he'd thought. He sighed to himself and said, softly, "I wuv technology."

My Favorite Typo

Student papers often have typos, especially at the beginning of the semester before we've worked on proofreading. Of all the typos I see, there is one which I see most often, from the most students. I'm not sure what it is about this particular word, but it gets typoed a ton.

Today, I'm collecting the first writing homework from my classes. I just glanced at one student's and what should I happen to see? That's right, my favorite typo. See, I love this word because it makes the sentence feel more... enthusiastic, and who doesn't like enthusiasm?

There, at the end of the homework assignment, is this sentence: "I feel I have a method to my madness at this point in my writing, but I think tweaking is defiantly good."

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Day of School

My class schedule this semester is quick and dirty - three classes in four hours M/W/F, with office hours in between. I'm excited about that, because it means my time on campus is over by noon. The flip side, of course, being that I have to be up and prepared extra early, but it works out well overall.

Right now I've got a bit of a lull (office hours), then I'm off to my last class at 11:00. I'm excited for this semester and eager to meet my last batch of students.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WPW Round Up

This week, Jenny's playing along with a birthday riff and Deb's starting fires.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blind Date

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.** (P.S. Yeah, I know I'm early, but I'll be doing professional development all day tomorrow and won't have time.)

So he said we'd meet a Mulligan's, and I said I love Mulligan's. I mean, they have an awesome wine list there. What's not to love, right? Right. So, we were off to a good start, I can tell you. Then, when I get there, he's already waiting at this cute little table in the corner and, lemme tell ya, he is looking good this dark brown shirt that totally shows off his pecs. He even holds the chair out for me when I sit down. Way classy, right? Then waitress comes over and we order and, here's the horrible part, he orders a Cosmopolitan. I mean, a Cosmopolitan? You've got to be kidding me. What else could I do? I let him buy me dinner and then I got the heck out of there and blocked his number on my phone. There's only allowed to be one person in a relationship drinking chic drinks, and that person is me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Writing About Your Writing Space

During part of one of the First Year Composition two-day extravaganza workshops, we were asked to do a bit of writing and describe our writing space. As I was doing it, I realized that it's a very cool, very meta, kind of exercise. I've seen pictures of writers' spaces, and it's cool to see those. But, to have the writer write about their space, well, you get a whole different kind of lens. After all, the biggest part of writing a scene is deciding where the emphasis goes, etc. and you can describe one setting infinite ways, depending on where you're focusing.

When I did the exercise, I was a little surprised by the results. I challenge y'all to do the exercise yourselves. My blurb is below, but don't read it until you write your own, got it?

Purple. Purple and brown and white. A cityscape of piled things. Like sculpture. Beads and necklaces. Cut out pages of books and calendars that have colorful pictures, all stacked in a pile. The desk that's gone a thousand-plus miles with me, and the cabinet too. My computer stuffed in a corner of that desk. Hundreds of pens spread out in a row of mugs. In my office, I have every color in the world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Victoria's Secret

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.**

"What do you think of this one?" Lily asked, modeling a lacy pink bra and matching thong.

Jason shrugged and shook his head. "Nah."

Lily disappeared back into the changing room then re-emerged in a little black bra and microscopic panties. "What about this set?"

He shook his head again, looking bored. "That's no good either."

By this point, they had been at the store for nearly an hour. Lily had gone into the changing room dozens of times, hoping to find the perfect lingerie set with which to seduce her fiance, Kevin. Jason, a childhood friend who had recently become a priest, was there to offer the male perspective and tell her to wait for said seduction until the wedding night in two weeks.

Lily was beginning to think that a man of the cloth wasn't her best choice for the task. She gave him an exasperated look. "What's wrong with this one?" She gestured to the bits which the set especially emphasized. "Do I, or do I not, look awesome in this?"

"You're beautiful, of course you are. That's not the point." Jason walked her over to stand in front of the mirror. He waved at the acreage of skin exposed before them. "The point is, look at that."

"Look at what?" Lily did not like the direction he was going in.

Jason sighed. "I don't mean it like that. What I'm trying to say is, everywhere you look today, you can find pictures of naked, or nearly naked, women. Seriously, it's getting old. I mean, dude, where's the mystery? But, leave a bit to the imagination..." He looked at the racks behind them and pulled off a slightly sheer white teddy that was long enough to almost reach her knees.

"That one?" Lily asked in disbelief.

"Oh yeah. This one. A little bit of mystery is very appealing." He winked. "That's why nuns are so sexy."

"I'm going to pretend you didn't say that last part," Lily said. Then she took the teddy from his hand and went to the changing room to try it on.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

There Goes Another Wednesday

Today was my day to fly back to the wonderful state of Colorado from Florida, and with all that entailed and a distinct lack of internet access, I partly didn't have time for, and partly didn't remember, an entry for WPW. However, now that I've returned home, we'll be back to the regularly scheduled programming next week.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Going South

I'm on the road right now, so I only just remembered that it was Wednesday, and I haven't even had time to hunt down a good WPW prompt. I'd almost feel like a slacker, except for the fact that I've been busy doing things like driving half way across the continent to move my brother from Colorado to Florida. We're in Mobile, Alabama tonight and we'll be in my brother's new home tomorrow morning. For my part, I'll just be glad to see the last of the moving truck. Thanks to the long drive, I'm going to skip my usual WPW fare tonight and, instead, jot down a bit of description. If you're unhappy about this, blame my brother ;)

Between losing the mountains, gaining humidity, and the change of dialect spoken by the people we meet, I hardly need any reminders that we're far from home. The change has been gradual. Bit by bit the roads flattened out as we hit the plains, and the air grew heavier and heavier with extra water. Today stepping outside feels the same as stepping out of a long hot shower in my closed bathroom at home. Except, it feels hotter.

Sunshine and humidity wrap themselves around me and remind me of a summer a few years ago when I lived here. Now, driving through this country again, seeing road-killed armadillos again, brings back the memory of driving the highways in the middle of the night as fireflies splashed against the windshield. Everything, even the air hugs me as I breathe it. The drive is black on green, asphalt butted up against lush, crowded trees.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a dirt road come off the highway. A mailbox. The dirt road isn't a road after all, but a driveway that leads back into the trees which push so close together that they hide what's behind them. Back home, the land is dirt and scrub and openness. Here, the trees make secrets of houses. My imagination starts to run. Those trees, so thick and dense. Anything could be behind them.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

WPW Roundup

This week, Deb's riffing on Fleur's plaid skirt post.

Mystery Date

**Hi all, welcome to another Writing Prompt Wednesday. Won't you play along? The guidelines are simple, and I'd love to read what you come up with.**

Trisha carried a plate of hors d'oeuvres into the dining room at the same time Phil came through the front door with his date. The heads of a dozen or so guests pivoted to look. Phil's date didn't quite fit his usual fare. She was over 25 and lacked the standard show of cleavage. For that alone, Trisha was curious. She set down the plate and walked to the door to greet them.

"Phil! I'm so glad you came." Trisha took his coat, but her attention was focused on his date. "Lovely to meet you..." she paused, waiting for Phil to fill in.

"Charlene," he said.

"Charlene," Trisha repeated. "Lovely name." Charlene's outfit, in contrast with her name, was quite bland. It was fine - dark grey slacks, cream blouse, and a cardigan - but boring. Then, as Trisha took Charlene's coat, the cardigan slipped to the side in the pull of static electricity and Trisha caught a glimpse of something decidedly not boring. Charlene quickly adjusted the cardigan, but not before Trisha saw the dark metal handgrip peeking out of a shoulder holster.

Now that, Trisha thought, is a conversation piece.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dark Clouds Above

I'm sitting at a picnic table on the riverwalk right now, listening to thunder, watching lightning, and half-hoping it will rain while half-hoping it won't so I can sit outside and watch more lightning.

Some people see the storm come in and run for cover, while other people see the storm come in and run outside. Seems to me that writers and artists tend to be that second kind.

Another flash. Another rumble. A few half-hearted drops of rain. The wind is flickering the leaves of a nearby tree, and the breeze carries with it the scent of wet stone.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Revision, Round 3-ish

Today I completed the latest round of revisions on my thesis intro. I feel... lighter.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WPW Roundup

This week, for Writing Prompt Wednesday, Deb's got a groovy bit of flash fiction up.

They Call me Donkey

**I just couldn't pass this one up. I could, however, correct its spelling.**

He walked into the bar and scanned the room. Since it was only two o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon, there wasn't much to scan. His face fell. After a moment's consideration, he made his way to the bar and winked at the woman tending it. "Hey there," he said in his seductive voice.

The bartender, who had been serving drinks for five years and was named Louise, said "What can I get you?" in her unimpressed voice. In the right light, which would be a dim one indeed, he could pass for cute. Maybe. The ankle-bracelet bulge beneath his dirty jeans, though, meant he needed to be one hell of a hottie before she'd overlook it.

"Funny you should ask that," he said, "because the reason I came here is because I'm looking for a roommate."

"Sorry, we don't serve that here."

He held up his hands to stop her. "Now, now, wait a second. Hear me out. My old lady just threw me out and I need a place to stay, but it'd just be temporary. One, two months tops."

Louise polished a martini glass.

"I'm real handy around the house. I can fix anything for you, and it's a good thing, too, 'cause I'm under house arrest. Just think of how much stuff I can do for you. I just can't pay rent, but what's money compared to high quality craftsmanship?" He leaned in close and gave her a conspiratorial grin. "I can also offer other... services. If you're interested, I'll tell you why they call me donkey."

Louise cocked an eyebrow. She'd certainly never heard a line like that before. Certainly not since Saturday night, at least. She put down the martini glass. "All right," she said. "Show me."


"Well, maybe I can help you out. Maybe. But I need to see your resume, if you know what I mean."

He darted a look around at the handful of patrons bent over their beers, hesitating.

"Do it, or don't," Louise said. "Your call." She turned as if to walk away, and he jumped up on the bar, fumbling with his belt. His jeans fell to the bar, followed shortly by a pair of tighty-whities.

"Hrm..." Louise said, thoughtfully.

"Well, you know," he explained. "It's a little cold in here."

"Are you any good at putting in tile?"

He nodded vigorously.

Louise yelled, "Butch!"

A huge hulk of a man wearing motorcycle gear at the end of the bar said, "What?"

Louise pointed to the half-naked man in front of her and Butch's eyes lit up. "I just found you a roommate."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

WPW: The Proclaimer

The homeless dude who reads the Bible and chapters on female anatomy equally as loud likes to stand on an elevated surface, such as the red overstuffed arm chair in the back, when he does it. His added height allows him to better project as he pronounced, "And the children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, when Ehud was dead. And Jehovah sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles..."

He stands with one hand holding the book he reads from and the other held out in front of him, as if he were holding a barrel to his chest, to aid in his projection as he reads. On Tuesday, he proclaimed, "The vulva (from Latin "vulva", plural "vulvae" or "vulvas") refers to the external genital organs of the female!"

Last week, he read a section about photosynthesis from a biology book and a passage of the Illiad in the original Greek and never once stumbled on his pronunciation. There seems to be little pattern in his selection. The homeless dude samples from all disciplines and genres equally, with the one exception of westerns, which he refuses to touch.

Needless to say, bookstore staff have begun to make efforts to keep him out of the store. Just yesterday, a male cashier made a running tackle as the homeless dude tried to sneak through the front door. However, he is most persistent and the store staff cannot be every where at once. Today he climbed through a side window, made his selection, and scaled one of the bookshelves.

At that height, he was quite conspicuous and got spotted almost immediately. Three bookstore workers converged on him, but he was too high up and they couldn't reach him before he leapt to the next bookshelf. Today, he selected Emily Dickinson, whose short lines were quite fitting to the occasion.

"I felt a funeral in my brain," the homeless dude said. The bookstore staff reached to grab for his feet and he jumped to the next bookshelf.

"And mourners to and fro..." Leap.

"Kept treading, treading, till it seemed..." Leap.

"That sense was breaking through..." Leap.

They finally caught him in the children's section. The tackler from the other day climbed up on a bookshelf himself and cornered the homeless dude against a wall and wrestled him down. The homeless dude yelled out the last line of the poem before they shoved him out the door, and the customers erupted in applause. You just can't buy entertainment like that. Many of them will be back tomorrow, to be sure, for the matinee.

The Turn That Never Came

Last night I watched the pilot episode of Eastbound & Down and experienced sore disappointment. The premise: hotshot pro baseball player who in love with himself to the Nth degree wrecks his pro career and winds up teaching PE in a public school. Sounds entertaining, doesn't it? I sure thought so.

About half way through the episode, I came to the conclusion that I couldn't stand the protagonist. I mean, couldn't stand him in the way that the sound of his very voice made the muscles in my back tense up. It was a visceral, disgusted response. A good part of it, no doubt, informed by all the times when I was waitressing and got stuck serving some version of this guy. In short, completely obnoxious and I can't stand him.

Yet, I waited it out. I thought I saw potential. The kind where, after almost a whole episode of making the audience hate the guy, the writers, if they were smart, would put in a turn toward the end that would hook me. I mean, it's the pilot, right? It's all about the hook. The final scene, instead of redeeming Kenny Powers, made him even more obnoxious. Ugh.

It was very disappointing. Me, I'm all about rough characters. I love my anti-heroes, reluctant heroes, sympathetic villains, and all the rest. Make them flawed, make them unreliable, make them messy, and I'm there. But, and it's a big "but," they still need to be redeemable. One of my latest favorite examples of a flawed hero is Dennis Leary's character, Tommy Gavin, on Rescue Me. He's all kinds of shady, selfish, and untrustworthy, but he's got enough about him that's admirable that he's redeemable. There's depth there. It's beautiful.

Kenny Powers? Total caricature, and a character who falls completely flat for me. If they had balanced out the over-the-topness just a little more, I could have gotten into the show. Lack of balance wrecks a character far faster than anything else.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

227 Photos

I went down to the river walk today because I was in the mood to take some new photos. 227 later, I headed home. Yeah, that's right, I took 227 photos today. Of course, once I get that pared down, I'll have a great number fewer. Among those 227, many are multiple shots of the same thing at slightly different angles and distances to make sure that I get just the right photo. In particular, I took a ton of photos of the fountain that shoots water up in the air, because I want to be able to sort through just the right "moment."

It's just like writing, where you might write out a whole character biography or extended scene, but use only a fraction of it. But, you write it out anyway, because you need the extra so you can decide which part of it is just right.

(P.S. This photo was #7 out of 15+ of the lamp posts on the bridge)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Agent Investigation

This month for CWC, our mission is to do some investigation. Each of us will be researching some agents in our genre and coming in with a list and background info on each agent. The idea is to start getting some concrete ideas about the best agents for our work.

That, my friends, is my theme for this month. I'm going to be doing lots of research about where the Cass book would get the warmest reception, and I challenge you to do some digging for your own work. So, pick something - a story, a poem, your novel - and start looking around at which magazine/publisher/agent might be a good fit for your work. You've spent all this time writing brilliant things, now it's time to prepare for showing your baby off.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

WPW: Balance

This morning I am practicing balance.
I practice balance with pebbles and rocks and boulders
and other things.
Three pebbles in this hand, one rock in the other.
A boulder in this hand, a thousand pebbles in that one.
Rocks and tree branches.
Raspberries and avocados.
Sunshine and recycled paper.
I balance feathers on my nose
and radio waves on my toes.
A spider web dangles from my pinky finger
offset with a whisper held in my opposite hand.
This morning I am practicing balance,
picking up and putting down
one thing after another,
trying to keep even.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Speaking of Editing...

I just read a good post about editing on The Blood-Red Pencil. Some of the tips are obvious, some aren't. All of them are good. I'm going to be thinking about the 3-Act breakdown as I work on Cass some more. I'm a bit stuck and I think breaking it down this way will help me get over the sticky part.

Problem Solving

Today feels like a good day for a piggy back post, so I'm going to go off of Deb's post about last night's CWC meeting. One of the best things about a critique group that works is that problems get solved. There are always problems in drafts, whether it's a character, a scene, or bit of dialogue, there are things that need fixing. That's why it's called a draft, right?

Last night I was on the chopping block for the 2nd submission of the Cass book, and I knew the gang was going to comment on one particular thing. As part of getting people where they needed to be, I had to figure out a reason for them to be at a funeral, despite it being dangerous for one of the characters to be out in public. I thought about it, and played around with it, and tried so hard to figure out a good reason to get them all there. The best I could come up with wasn't really a good reason, but I couldn't figure anything else out.

When it came to my turn to get critiqued, Jenny started. Basically, she said, "Yeah, this part... it's not working."

I said, "Tell me about it."

Then Shane said, "Well, what if..." And there it was, exactly what I needed. It was simple, it was perfect, and I never even got close to figuring it out on my own. Writers groups can be a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

WPW Roundup

Deb's got hers up. Where's yours?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WP Wednesdays: Barfight Sarah

Hi gang, and welcome to the second Writing Prompt Wednesday. I'd love it if you joined the game. The rules are simple. Read them here then go find a prompt. Happy writing.

Barfight Sarah
Her nose was broken during a tavern brawl, but she was too drunk to go to the hospital and have it set. The scar on her cheek was from a broken chair leg, and her left eye had a tendency to list to the side, thanks to the fist of a particularly beefy motorcyclist she called a lightweight during a drinking contest.

At that particular moment, she stood an inch away from a forty-something man in a business suit. He tried to lean away from her, but the solid oak bar digging into his back refused to budge. "Look, lady," he said. "There are plenty of other seats in this place-"

She closed the distance between their faces and her crooked nose touched his. "And you're in mine."

The invasion of personal space had gone too far, and the business man snapped. He put his hands on her shoulders and shoved her hard enough to toss her on her butt. The expression on his face spun from satisfaction, to regret at shoving a woman, to sheer horror when she bounced up on her feet. She was coming straight at him, her nose pointed to the right, her eye drifted to the left, and a delighted smile on her face.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Under the Chopping Block

A while back, I announced they were doing line edits over at Edittorrent, and today they did mine. It feels pretty cool to have gotten a once-over by a pro, even if it's just a paragraph. ^_^

Thursday, June 18, 2009

WP Wednesday

Deb's in the gaming spirit and has joined the first week's round with a short piece of her own.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writing Prompt Wednesdays: Test Run

Dr. Horatio's office was not the office of a typical university professor. No, as the office of the university's head of the Hypothetical Math department, it had molded to its occupant in the same way an old mattress molds to the specific curve of a person's butt. It just so happened that Hypothetical Math is a very peculiar sort of curve. Everyone in the department knew that, in Dr. Horatio's office, space-time as it was popularly conceived, dared not go in, but instead turned back around and kept walking down the hall to more hospitable territory.

For, inside of Math 253, time lines didn't always make sense. Laws of physics were broken. On one notable occasion, an undergraduate student had foolishly walked into the office, alone, in search of Dr. Horatio so he could turn in a paper. Not only did the student fail to find Dr. Horatio, he also failed to escape the office until the following semester. He walked out, dazed, clothes torn, and babbling incoherently about having gotten tangled up in a web of string theory. He had only managed to break free when the quantum spider that had woven the web got sucked into a herd of feral black hole. The student had clearly gone quite mad, as everyone knows feral black holes are strictly solitary creatures.

In the wake of this incident, the university administrators granted the undergraduate a free ride scholarship in a mental institution and gave strict orders for the installation of a mailbox for Dr. Horatio on the wall outside of his office. Dr. Horatio himself, of course, failed to notice either the incident or the mailbox, but his doppelganger assured the administration that he would take charge of checking said mailbox. This conclusion satisfied everyone involved. Well, except for the undergraduate. However, at this point, he tended to be satisfied with purple crayons and applesauce so nobody gave him much mind about the matter at all.

A Game: Writing Prompt Wednesdays

I'm in the mood to play a game and I'm going to invite anyone who reads this blog to join me. For now, I'm calling it Writing Prompt Wednesdays and the rules are pretty simple. Here's how to play:

1. Find something that snags you online, (a blog post, news story, whatever), that's been published in the past week or so, and pick a quote from it.
2. Use the quote as a prompt and write something (anything, a scene, some dialogue, a haiku, it's up to you)
3. Post the result on your blog with the prompt bolded and a link to the blog post you pulled it from
4. Let me know you've done it - respond to my Wednesday post
5. By Thursday, I'll post a list of links on this blog to showcase the results
6. You get bonus points for putting up a link on your blog to the showcase

Friday, June 12, 2009


Writers get compared to other writers all the time. Jenny even once compared me to Neil Gaiman (I love you Jenny!).

In the process of revising my thesis based on Katherine and Ted's comments, I'm doing more reading. Part of that reading includes some short stories that Juan has recommended to me because he sees similarity between me and them. I've read almost all the recommended stories, they come out of an anthology titled Story Matters.

It is strange, to say the least, to read these and think, "This is how Juan sees my writing." Some of them make sense to me, like the story by Ha Jin. Some of them make me wonder where he sees the correlation. Either way, it's an adventure.

The stories:
"River of Names" by Dorothy Allison
"After I Was Thrown into the River an Before I Drowned" by Dave Eggers (he was the first writer who came to Juan's mind when he gave me the recommendations, and I think it was more for the author interview than the story itself)
"Going" by Amy Hempel
"Love in the Air" by Ha Jin
"A Temporary Matter" by Jhumpa Lahiri
"Bobby Jackson" by Joan Silber
"Father Returns from the Mountain" by Luis Alberto Urrea

Monday, June 8, 2009

This is Nifty

Just want to let y'all know that they're doing something cool over at Edittorrent. If you post a couple of paragraphs of your work, they'll edit it. The idea is to show folks what professional line editing looks like. How cool is that?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Movies Are Supposed to be Escapism, Dang It

I should know better by now, I really should, but somehow I'm having trouble with my learning curve. I got some DVDs from the library. Independent/Artsy Films. Almost every time I watch independents, I'm disappointed. The pattern holds true for the most recent two.

Waitress: I had high hopes for this one, because, well, it has Nathan Fillion in it. But, it's a classic example of the previews mis-representing the actual film. Previews = quirky romantic comdey; Film = not rom. com. in the least. Instead, it's kind of depressing and complicated.

Lars and the Real Girl: Ditto on the previews vs. film disconnect. Ditto on the rest, too. It irritates me when the film company doesn't think the actual film is going to draw in a crowd, so they cut the previews to make it seem like it's something it's not. Makes me feel all deceived and mislead.

It's also strange to me how both of these movies had great comedic potential, but seemingly decided comedy wasn't worthwhile enough, that they'd rather go for serious. But, if only they'd done it Joss Whedon style by playing up the funny to highlight the sad, both films would have been more compelling. But, they tried to be too high-brow with the humor. Too dry. Didn't work for me.

Synecdoche, New York: Watched this one because of a blogger's recommendation and because I liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind okay. Yeah... about that.

My problem is all about perspective. Often, I feel like these types of movies come at life from almost a "too realistic" perspective. Life is quirky, complicated and messy. Of course, we get it. Life is also hilarious, charming, and lovely. These films stick with the first bit and skip the second. They try for funny, but the timing/tone/delivery is off and it becomes that joke that doesn't work. Though, I'll admit, there are oodles of people who'd disagree with me on this. Fair enough. Suffice it to say, these films are generally not my cup of tea.

The bottom line for me, is if I'm watching a movie, I want to embrace a more optimistic point of view. The good guy wins, the conflict gets resolved, and the conflict is big - not just about the banality of the everyday, blah, blah, blah. I want story, not reality. That's why I watched a movie instead of sitting on a street corner watching people.

We all know what life is, and we all know there's plenty of tedious, depressing stuff that goes on in it. We all know the score. It's not about life, it's about telling a story.

Anyhow, enough of the rant. On the flip side of the coin, there are some times when the Independent thing really works for me. I guess that's why I keep watching them - sometimes they're awesome. So, I'll add to this post a list of my favorite low budget/obscure/Independent flicks:

The Amateurs
Little Miss Sunshine
Smoke Signals
Blow Dry
Danny Deckchair
The Darwin Awards
Friends and Family
How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog

P.S. I know you could argue some of these are actually mainstream flicks, but I'm going off of the criteria that, for many, if I mentioned the movie in conversation, people wouldn't know what it was.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You, Me, and the Power of We

This month, in honor of working with my committee to revise & defend my thesis, is all about collaboration.

Writers, as Jenny has often commented, are strange creatures because we like to form these critique groups which means we get all excited about actually helping our competition, other writers. Of course, the more we critique others, the better we get at our own writing, so it's not entirely selfless.

In any event, this month I challenge you to step up your collaboration. Go above and beyond your normal level of getting other people engaged in your work, and vice versa. Maybe now's the time to try co-writing something. Maybe now's the time to have someone who's never read your work offer their thoughts on it. Or, speaking of critique groups, now would be the perfect time to recruit someone new to join the critique group you belong to.

Think about it and find a way to get more people involved. You never know who will be the person to come up with that great idea that totally fixes your novel's conflict and turns it from blah to brilliant.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Learning Stuff Month

This month, in honor of Fred, I've been all about trying and learning new things. Lots of explorations. It was fun, and I think I've lived up to the example he set.

During May I went on a few adventures, like a road trip to the edge of the state to see Camii get her bachelor's in Psychology. I'm still getting used to the idea of my brother also being a graduate, and now a lieutenant, no less.

From the library, I got a few books to brush up on my art history. This week I checked out two local clubs - one for chess, one for photography - and know that each have things to teach me. I even learned some chess strategies already and my timing was such that I have a chance to have some photos in an art show.

I also went to see some jazz, firmed up plans to help my brother move in July, and had a birthday.

Not too shabby, I think. Cheers, Fred.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Zombie Glee

The other day I went to the library and happened to stumble upon a book which caused an unusually enthusiastic reaction in me. As soon as I read the title, I broke out in a big grin and snatched it up. If I hadn't been in public, I probably would have clapped my hands and yelled "Whoo-hoo!"

Of all the horror monsters, zombies are above-and-beyond my favorite. They creep me right out and fascinate me all at the same time. I love zombie movies. They're one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Now I get to have some zombie stories, too. Zombie stories by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Sherman Alexie, no less. Awesome.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Filling Up

May is proving blurry. Today I realized that the next CWC meeting is this coming Monday already. That's only four days away. Holy cow. I've been working on some edits on the 1st 50 pages of Cass from the last critique, but now I've got to push through to do a quick edit on the next 50 pages to submit it to the gang.

I'm working on coffee shop pages now, then later Katherine should have her thesis comments ready for me, then I've got to print out another copy of my thesis for mom and dad, then I'm off to the gym, then I'm aiming for some more time on Cass or working on CWC critiques.

Nothing like deadlines to shake off that restless feeling.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I'm on summer vacation. This is the first summer vacation I've had off of both school and work in a very long time - since I was eleven or so, I think. I've always had busy summers since then, and I've been planning to take this one all the way off as a present to myself for getting my thesis done. (It's still not all the way done, as it's under review, but I'm close.

Here I am, about two weeks in, and I'm restless. *Sigh* So much for relaxing. I need something to do. Fortunately, I guessed this might be the way it went and planned out some projects ahead of time. Now my issue is that being home all day is distracting. It looks like I may have to spend some time on campus during my vacation because the change of scenery will help me focus. Funny, isn't it?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's All Jungian

This week, as the first week of my summer vacation, has been fun. It has also been difficult to keep track of which day is which and I only recently realized it's actually Thursday.

So, I'm currently reading Touch the Dark by Karen Chance. It's an excellent example of why researching your genre is a wonderful thing. I've only just started reading the novel, but it's already making me sad. Chance has two characters within the first couple of chapters that bother me because of a couple of characters I have in Crossroads Promise.

Chance: Female protagonist named Cassandra whose parents were killed by a vampire. Me: Female protagonist named Cass whose parents were killed by a vampire. Chance: Vampire named Rafe. Me: Vampire named Rafe.

It's irksome. I've never read Karen Chance's work, so there's no way I'm subconsciously borrowing from her. Yet, there are the similarities. It's eerie. The Cass/Cassandra thing I get, it's hard not to go with the mythological reference. The orphan thing is even understandable. It's the overlap with the vampire bits that are a tad unsettling. I think I'm going to have to find a new name for my baddie. Dang.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

For Fred

There is sad news for the writing crew today. Fred has passed away from complications from a stroke. This month's challenge will therefore be in his honor.

Above all else, Fred loved knowledge. During our regular round of "what are you reading" he would almost always be the one with the most unusual titles - one, in particular, that I remember was something about theoretical mathematics. Most of us mere mortals would never dream of picking up some of these books just to read for fun. But, for Fred, that was just another day at the bookstore.

So, this month I challenge you to learn something new for the pure joy of learning. And, it wouldn't hurt to give your loved ones an extra hug, either.

Cheers, Fred.

My Favorite

This semester of teaching has been my favorite so far. I've had some really great students and finally feel like I've had enough practice to know at least a little of what works with a class. In the past couple of days, I've been reading and grading final exams. For all three of my classes, the final was the same - a personal reflection over the semester where the student had to write, in class, at least 2 pages about how they've changed as a writer.

A big part of my pedagogy is based in metacognition. In my own writing, I know that really paying attention to what I'm doing and why is one of the best ways for me to learn. That's one of the reasons I have this blog - writing about writing makes me a better writer. So, in class, I ask my students to do the same. Of all the writing they produce throughout the semester, the reflective writings are always the most interesting to me. Students who struggle with the formal writings can really open up in reflections and they usually say some really smart things.

Usually, I am very cautious about discussing my teaching and my students in a public forum. Today I make an exception:

"Throughout this class, I have evaluated and re-evaluated my work. It is always interesting to me to see my progress. It's like a journal, in that going back occasionally allows you to remember and understand where you have been, and where you are going."

"Over the course of this semester I was able to find that I have the potential of becoming a good writer."

"This has really opened my eyes and made me pay more attention to the things I am reading, and to the things I am writing, because what you may want the reader to get out of the reading may not be what you had in the reading at all."

"Reading and thinking critically are a huge part of being an effective and efficient writer."

"I have learned to not write for myself, but for the person reading the paper..."

"I can say now that I do get excited to write now because I have something new to show."

That last one is my favorite.