Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Surfing

Daily overtime at work all week and wading through meticulous revisions in The Bonding unfortunately didn't leave me much time to scout for many articles.  However, you may find these interesting.

Be sure to tune back in later this week. Catherine Everett (who wrote the 9 Kinds of Writers post) will be my guest again with another interesting article on Thursday.  And I have the great pleasure of announcing that her paranormal romance, KARMA AND MAYHEM is now available from Soul Mate Publishing!  Be sure to send her a congratulatory woohoo or two!

Poets & Writers Submission Calendar for writing contests, grants, and other literary awards

The Six Biggest Mistakes Made by Self-Published Authors

How Nitpicky Do We Need to Be With Our Manuscripts?

Anatomy of a Best-Selling Novel—Structure Part One (and continues with Structure Part 2–Plot Problems)

The No. 1 Tip of Successful Writers

Fantasy Book Publishers  (All of these publishers are considering manuscript proposals.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Do Love Me Some Dragons

Perhaps it's about time I let you see another geeky, nerdy side of me.  Yes, it's true, you can tell a lot about a person by their friends.

These are my friends

All were gifts from either my wife or daughter.  Any wife who brings home a dragon for her husband has to love him, right?  (Unless, of course, the dragon is hungry and hubby has a whopper life insurance policy.)

And any daughter who brings home a dragon for Daddy must adore him, right?  (Unless, of course, Daddy has Cerberus guarding the car keys he took from her for missing curfew.)

The uploaded images are larger, so you should be able to click the various images for a better gander.  Just don't get too close.  I haven't fed them yet today.

Wizards on the other hand tend to fare far better when interacting with these noble (or not so noble) beasts.  Is there any wonder my book's prologue opens with a dragon providing warning to a wizard type?

Cultures spanning the globe celebrate, revere or fear the dragon.  Literature is replete with them, from Tolkien to the Bible.  And while every culture's perception of what these fantastic beasts are or represent, they're almost always perceived with awe.

Several of these are globes.  Adding transparent spheres into the mix just enhances the effect somehow, don't you think?  And to have the dragon's head penetrating said sphere is just plain cool.

And there's something about the way they perch on the globes that hints of deadly clever intentions.  Simultaneously sinister and noble, they lure the wise and ensnare the unsuspecting.

Several have lights, triggered on timers or in response to sound.  One roars.  Another flashes lightning amidst cracks of thunder.  What more could a geek want?

I'm rather partial to the cylindar.  It spawns a tornado.  Quite the effect.

The one on the right plays music while it's upper body and wings move, menacing and majestic.

So now you know what I'd like for Christmas, birthdays, Father's Day, and yes, even Valentine's Day! (It is about love, right?)

So gaze into the heavens and glimpse a dragon!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mark Steve Reviews Julius Caesar by Shakespeare

Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
(A Perfect Example of Renaissance Age)

Review by Mark Steve

Renaissance age was the period when people started taking interest in the old classics, and a lot of new literature was written. This was the period of artistic and cultural movement. The renaissance clothing, art and literature, are still popular among a number of people. The name of Williams Shakespeare is the most popular among the literary figures of that period. He provides us various wonderful dramas, which are played in various parts of the world.

He used a number of themes throughout his careers. He also paid attention towards some historical concepts. ‘Julius Caesar’ is one of his most popular treatises. The story of this play focuses on the famous Roman general Julius Caesar. The first part of the story is based on a conspiracy against the general. Caesar’s assassination is the most popular scene in the story.

Julius Caesar is cheated by his friends. Brutus is Caesar’s close friend, who is convinced by the conspirators that they are doing everything for Rome. Cassius writes letters to Brutus in different handwritings to join this conspiracy. Finally, Brutus agrees to be part of the conspiracy. Julius is killed finally, and the conspiracy is successful.

The conspirators convince the crowd that they have performed the assassination for Rome. Brutus addresses the crowd after the death of Caesar to justify his actions. But, after the speech of Brutus, Julius’s other close friend Mark Antony delivers the oration, which turns the public opinion against the killers. This speech has gained huge popularity and can be read through various online sources. The next part of the story talks about the alliance of Caesar’s adopted son Octavius and Mark Antony. In the end, they had a battle with Brutus and Cassius. Both Brutus and Cassius are killed in the end of the story.

The book perfectly reflects the creativity of the renaissance age. Shakespeare belonged to this era, but he described the era of the Roman republic brilliantly, which took place even before the Roman Empire. The influence of old classics can also be witnessed vividly on Shakespeare’s literature. On the other hand, he also used some new innovation in his time.

The play has a lot of things that strike the readers or audiences. Antony’s true friendship is an admirable thing. It adds an inspirational touch to the story. Besides, the ways in which he convinces the people is worth reading. His speech can really be a source of motivation for the orators.

Shakespeare’s plays also provide a glimpse of renaissance clothing styles; however, this drama takes us to the pre-medieval times. Moreover, this play is perfect for reading in the form of the book also, and it gives the novel-like joy to the readers. It has also played a prominent role in increasing the popularity of Julius Caesar.

About Mark Steve:

My name is Mark. I am a Historian, researcher and writer. I regularly write articles, reviews on books and novels on historical topics related to Medieval, Renaissance, Pirate, gothic & Steampunk themes. If you want to know more about me and my blog, then see my blogs Renaissance Outfits, The Goth Code and The middle ages.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Bit of Beach Fun (And Zombie Turtles)

Is that a zombie turtle chasing me?
Topsail Beach, NC is known for its turtles.  What I didn't know was that sometimes those turtles are zombie turtles.  They're stealthy and faster than turtles that aren't zombiefied.  And they prey upon unsuspecting, middle-aged tourists and vacationers.

Like me!

You never hear them.  They come en masse, stalking, waiting to strike the unwary.

They're not content to convince the unbelieving of their existence.  Their motives are base.  Their sole aim is to multiply.  They need humans in order to propagate.

And I was the means to their ends!

The panicked brain is not known for strategy.  I was armed with nothing more than a Basset Hound and a diet cola.  Both were useless.

What good is a twelve-ounce aluminum can against zombiefied, armored turtle shells?  And have you ever thrown a sixty-five pound Basset Hound?  The old girl might have done a bit of damage had I managed, but Basset tossing is for the young--even when facing a horde of zombie turtles.

But the zombie turtles do throw.  They hurl each other like cannon balls.  And once you've lost your balance they have you!

Zombie turtles bite with massive zombie fangs!
Razor-like fangs as long as their legs protrude from their mouths the moment you're within striking range.  And they strike without mercy.

The Basset merely yelped and fled like the yellow-belly coward she is, leaving me writhing and flailing on the sandy beach, helpless turtle fodder.

I felt teeth puncture my flesh.  The setting sun ignited a flash from below the horizon.  The gentle waves swelled into a tsunami.  The world changed.  The transformation was almost instantaneous.

I rose, no longer fully human.  I saw things as never before, a world of gray dotted with shapes of green.  My newly birthed instinct recognized those shapes and the need to propagate my transformed self grew to blinding urgency.

A bikini-clad lady gawked, then screamed and ran.  I gave chase, but lacked the speed of zombie turtles.  Her partner, a hulking man barely in his twenties, threw his cooler at me.  Bottles of Budweiser shattered against my head.  I winced at the stench.  Only the smell of blood placates me now.

He charged towards me.  I doubted my ability to prevail, but my mutant turtle brethren intervened.  He's one of us now.  He assists Topsail Beach's Chamber of Commerce by designing tourist brochures.

Me?  I'm still here.  On the beach.  Toting my stale can of diet cola.  Waiting...

You simply must come to Topsail on your next vacation!

Note: No turtles (zombie or otherwise) were harmed in the writing of this story.  My wife and I had a truly fabulous time on Topsail Island and plan to vacation there again.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nine Ways to Shorten a Long Story by Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall

If your story or novel is too long and you need to bring the wordcount down, try one or several of these techniques. Some are soft options, others require you to cut into the flesh.

1. Delete introspection. Whenever your PoV spends a lot of time thinking, pondering, wondering, assessing, evaluating, remembering, reminiscing, musing and emoting, cut the lot. Condense all the thoughts in that scene into two sentences. That's it. You may expect this to hurt, but it's surprisingly painless, and the result is tight and exciting.

2. Delete the journey. Whenever your PoV spends time getting to a place - whether he's walking, driving, riding or flying - cut it. The reader doesn't need the guided tour of the flora, fauna, history and politics of the region, nor all the introspecting he does along the way. Pick up the story when he arrives. These unnecessary journeys can often be found at the beginnings of chapters.

3. Delete backstory. Whenever the plot halts to give the reader a view of what happened in the past, cut that. The reader needs to know less backstory than you think. Replace the backstory scenes with single-sentence summaries of what had happened. Excessive backstory can often be found in the first few chapters.

4. If you've used the “Scene & Sequel” method of structuring, shrink the sequels. Most sequels need to be no longer than a paragraph. Often, a single sentence is enough.

5. Condense the timeframe. Instead of spanning a decade, make it happen in a single year. Instead of stretching it over one week, squeeze it into one afternoon. This is astonishingly effective, saving thousands of words. However, you need to watch out for continuity errors: Make sure the characters' ages are consistent, and Christmas doesn't happen three times in one year.

6. Condense the geography. Instead of sections taking place in five different locations, move them all to the same place. A novel needs fewer words if it takes place in one town than in six.

7. Reduce the characters. The fewer characters, the shorter the novel. Whenever there are several people of a kind (three children, two sisters, four colleagues) let there be just one (one child, one sister, one colleague). Combine several characters into a single person: perhaps the noisy neighbour is also the gym instructor, and the choir conductor is also the owner of that pesky cat.

8. Cut a subplot. By leaving out a subplot, you can slim your novel substantially. If it hurts to throw away those wonderful scenes, put them in the freezer and cook them up in another novel.

9. Delete superfluous words. Many words carry little or no meaning; you can shed them without loss. Here are the main candidates: could, start/started to, begin/began to, that, then, somewhat, somehow, really, completely, very, say, all, just. Rigorous deletion of unnecessary words can often slim a novel by several thousand words.

Online Class “The Word-Loss Diet” with Rayne Hall

Tighten and tone your writing style, and use simple revision tricks to slim your manuscript in four weeks. Shed thousands of words without changing the plot! This class will make your manuscript shorter, your pacing faster, and your individual author voice stronger.

Please note: this is a tough class for authors who are serious about improving their writing craft, great for self-editing a manuscript before submission to agents and editors, or before indie-publishing. It is not suitable for the faint-of-heart! Students must have a full or partial manuscript of at least 20,000 words to work with for this hands-on workshop.

One month, twelve lessons, twelve assignments. 5 November - 7 December 2012. Fee: $16.00. Organiser: Lowcountry RWA.

About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than thirty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Historical Tales Vol 1, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates and more.

Her short online classes for writers are intense with plenty of personal feedback, suitable for intermediate, advanced and professional level authors only.

Monday, September 10, 2012

PageViews Mean (Almost) Nothing

Yeah, I've got and display the hit counter.  I like numbers and stats and graphs and all that.  I'm a geeky computer programmer, remember?  But my blog isn't about the numbers.  It's not about surpassing page view milestones.  It's not about attaining follower count milestones either.

But the numbers are important.  If the page views don't increase then I'm not reaching anyone.  If no one is joining then those who have may no longer be listening.  What benefit is there to having someone join my blog if that person never returns?

Nor is my blog about seeing how many comments I can garner on a post.  But the comments are important because they mean someone has heard what I said or asked and cared enough to engage in conversation--no matter how brief.

This blog is about people.  About community.  About relationships.

Was it always so?

I started this blog back in February because that's what we aspiring authors are supposed to do, right?  Build a presence.  Hone your brand.  Market yourself.  Establish a base so that when the day of our dreams comes and our novel is available there might just be somebody besides our mom and spouse who cares.


And then there's Twitter.  And Facebook.  And GoodReads.  And Google+.  And dozens more.  But shortly after joining all these (and other) platforms, I learned something.  Something I think is very important.

As happy as I was at seeing a new picture appear in my blog's GFC widget or finding some new soul had chosen to follow me on Twitter, there was something that made me even happier, something that gave me a great deal of satisfaction.  It came via comments, emails and messages.

I learned that what was making me happy wasn't an incrementing count, but establishing new connections and new relationships. By the time June was winding down I had met so many amazing people, people that were amazing in so many different ways and for so many different reasons.  I can honestly say that even never having seen the majority of these people in person, I could honestly consider them friends.

Thus was born my August is Awesome idea.  It was a major success and a lot of people were able to connect that had never before met.  You know, that felt good!  What's better than introducing people you care about to other people you care about and watching them become friends?

This fact really hit home to me on August 6th when Peggy Eddleman guest posted on my blog.  The incredible sentiment and appreciation shown to her by her admiring followers was beyond touching and inspiring.  It wasn't the fact that she was soon to be published that spurred that appreciation.  It was Peggy herself, her consistent willingness to encourage and help those around her.

I saw this repeated time and again with guest after guest throughout August.  So if you made a new friend via my blog during August then I accomplished my goal.

Yes, this blog is about writing, entertaining, encouraging and inspiring.  And it's the point from which I hope to one day announce that my book(s) will be released.  That much has always been true.  But my blog is now about more than posting a short story, giving a status update or teaching a grammar lesson.  It's about cultivating an online community of friends and peers.

Will I keep the hit counter and GFC?  Sure.  I'm still a geeky programmer too.

Has the nature or focus of your blog evolved over time?  If so, how or why?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Surfing

How to Find Your Character’s Voice

The Truth About Dead Genres

When to Outline

How to Use Brainstorming to Edit

Literary Engineer  (I really like the "Sloppy Writing" posts.)

Whisper, Growl, or Bark?  (This links to #3 in The Quest for Story series)

By now, my vacation is nearing its end.  (I hope I had a good time. LOL)  So although all these links have now aged at least a week or two, I trust there is something of benefit to you in at least one of them.  If I had more time before heading out, I'd have provided more.


Friday, September 7, 2012

My Life as an Adverb

People hate me something fierce, it seems.  And not just me.  They hate my cousin, Adjective too.

Don't believe me?

What happens when I sit next to a verb in some writer's manuscript?  That's right, the same thing that happens when Cousin A. J. sits next to a noun.  I get evicted, forcefully and gleefully.  If the writer isn't striking me out then his editor is.  A. J. says it ain't pretty at all when it happens to her.  Well, I agree wholeheartedly.

I remember fondly the days when I was celebrated on television.

Schoolhouse Rock

Why, I've seen some writers come up with entire sentences just to get rid of me.

A couple weeks back my former best friend, Willie Writer, used A. J. and me in the same sentence describing an awfully pretty necklace.  Then somebody has to go and tell Willie that A. J. and I don't belong in that sentence.  Out we went!  Willie used seventeen words to replace us!

Discrimination, I say.  Discrimination!

So you think you've got it bad, do you?  Try being an adverb nestled neatly within the pages of a manuscript sitting on an editor's desk.  Then we'll talk.

Excuse me, won't you?  I'm writing a strongly worded letter to the editor.

Treat Cousin A. J. and me nicely, okay?  And as always, write wisely!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My First Flash Fiction Attempt

It seems the weeks between me posting my short stories are getting much more numerous of late.  I could blame that on many things, but I'll instead just skip to today's almost Flash Fiction story.  I understand that true Flash Fiction tops out at 100 words, but this is the shortest fiction I've written to date.

This was written in response to the Yahoo Fantasy Writer's group's "Little Black Book" challenge posed for the week of August 12th.

Sylvia's Little Black Book

Sylvia blew out the match and grinned. The lights were off, the room quiet. Shadows danced along the walls’ faces. She loved candlelight, the tricks it played and the mood it set. Innocuous objects cast the most threatening silhouettes.

Objects like Randy, the overstuffed bear Jake gave her. All man, Jake was, shooting little targets with roped down pellet guns at carnivals. Sylvia’s lip rose in a sneer. The education-challenged brute sure knew how to show a woman a good time. He couldn’t tell a fake swoon from a fake--“Crap!”

Brian calling. Again. She took a deep breath and turned off her cell. The hint of a grin replaced her sneer. Brian won’t be a problem much longer. She’d already read his name. Yesterday. And not on her cell. She’d read it in her little black book. Soon there’d be no more Brian like there was no more Jake. God, that book sure came in handy.

Note: This is posted as originally written.  I'm up for comments on it.  Then I can compare them with the ones I received from the group.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Muse For Hire

Seventy-four.  That's how many ceiling tiles hang above the sofa in my muse's office--excluding the partials.  I know because I counted them.  Repeatedly.  Perhaps my time would have been better spent giving this creative spirit a name.

"And how does that make you feel?" she asked.

"Maybe you should ask Jake that question."

My muse thinks she's a psychiatrist!

"Because he's the one you killed."  I found her wry grin more than a little disconcerting.  "You're all heart, aren't you?"

"Jake wasn't real, Jeff.  You really need to get a better handle on differentiating these things."

"I'm getting better."  Of course.  She always answers my claims of progress with silence.  The woman really does think she's part psychiatrist.  "I didn't resurrect Brian, did I?"

"Brian never even spoke a line of dialog, Jeff."

"Your point?"

"The point, Jeff, is it wasn't much of a sacrifice to keep him dead."

I kept my eyes level and focused on hers.  "You know, I do have a real psychiatrist."

"And what did she say about Brian?"

"He," I corrected.  "Less than he had to say about you."

"I can imagine.  Did you tell him I'm attractive?"

"I'm married!"

"Doesn't mean I'm not attractive."

"It means I know better than notice."  That impish smile of hers always beckons trouble.

Can you trust a muse for hire?
"Well, I still say your story was better off with Jake dead."  The timer dinged.  "Already?  My, where does the time go?  You're always so much fun to work with, Jeff.  Same time next week?"

I rose from the couch and loosed a resigned sigh as I grabbed the door knob.  "Of course."

"Oh, tell your friends I'm running a special.  You get a free consultation for each new client you bring me."

My breath caught the moment I realized I'd called her a sadist aloud.  What on Earth did I just do?

"Maybe you are making progress," she said with her widest grin yet today.  Leaning forward, she dropped a few business cards into my hand.  "Here, make sure you give them these."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Surfing

Finding Your Natural Writing Voice

And for contrast, Finding your Writer’s Voice

Writing: A Mind Game

Befriending Your Creativity

Passive Voice in Creative Writing

Your E-Book Is Reading You

Graphing Out Your Plot

How to self-publish an ebook

Are You Trying to Write a Well-Written Book or Tell a Great Story?

Your Facebook Profile as a Marketing Tool with Penny Sansevieri

23 Websites that Make Your Writing Stronger and 23 (More) Websites that Make Your Writing Stronger

Blog Design Questions:

Popular Posts List:
I seek your preference. I intend to leave the monthly "Popular Posts" list up for a while longer. Prior to August, I displayed the seven "All Time" popular since I normally only post two-to-three times per week.  I wanted to maximize exposure for my guests during the August is Awesome series so I switched it to the ten most popular for the past thirty days.  Do you prefer seeing the "All Time" or the "Past Month" list?  Five of each?

Facebook Gadget:
Facebook Counterpart?
Anyone know where I can find a decent, but simple-to-implement Facebook gadget?  Ideally, I'd like something along the lines of the Google+ gadget, something that would both open my page in a new window or tab and allow a Like.  (I might actually start promoting my Facebook page if I could ever decide on a decent cover image.)

I plan to clean up my sidebar's off-site links this month, although the process will likely be gradual.  I'm open to suggestions regarding categories, quantities, even specific sites.  My objective will be to really hone in on the best resources for things like grammar, story craft, critiquing circles, fun stuff, etc.

Is there anything else you think I should add?  Or remove?  Or change?  All the discussion regarding blog design I've read recently got me to thinking.  I welcome your input.

Enjoy the links!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Spectacular September!

No, it's not another month-long celebration or meet and greet.  (I'm still recovering from August being so awesome.)  Spectacular September is a decision.  A choice.  A promise made to self, to be enacted by self, for the benefit of self.  A conscious, willful frame of mind in which to exist.  And it begins with vacation!

Make Your September Spectacular!
Let me begin this ramble of words by again thanking everyone who contributed to August is Awesome!  That too was a choice, a decision to improve myself by showcasing the awesomeness of others.  Lingering in the company of awesome people makes us a little bit more awesome too, or so I think.

I saw people meet each other all month long.  I saw them become followers of each others blogs and Twitter feeds.  I watched them engage in meaningful dialog.  And I too met new friends, found new blogs to follow and welcomed many new faces here.

It was truly awesome.  That's what the series was all about.  So again, thank you to everyone who made it an awesome month!

Other news:
Looking forward to much of THIS next week!
Vacation has finally arrived!  I have no plans to see my office until the eleventh of September.  Instead, Myra and I have plans at Topsail Beach, NC next week.  (Means more original NC coastal pictures for my Sunday Surfing posts!)  The house is supposed to have internet access, so barring problems I should be checking in on occasion.

I'll have a couple or three posts scheduled to publish during the week just in case.  I will reply to comments--even if I'm unexpectedly without internet access until my return, so mum's not the word next week.

Twitter activity, however, will likely be minimal.  I use TweetDeck at home.  It's just about perfect for the way I use Twitter and I've not yet installed it on my laptop.  Time not spent wading in the surf, bathing in the sun or otherwise occupied, I'll be devoting to catching up on some critiquing, reading, writing, and who knows, maybe even a little painting if there's room in the car for the materials. 

Free Pictures:
This is one of the freebies (scaled down)
Most everyone is aware of the recent news regarding the unauthorized use of copyrighted pictures on blogs.  Although I am by no means a decent photographer, I have nevertheless uploaded a batch of photos that everyone is welcome to use.  They're uploaded on Flickr and have been added to the WANA Commons pool as well.  I can't vouch for their applicability, but I'm doing what little I can to help.

I'll likely add a few more rambling words to tomorrow's Sunday Surfing post, so until then, make September spectacular!