Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Funnies

Just a few, light thoughts to begin a fun Friday.
(I'm tired, but I tried.)

Q: How can you identify a cowardly book?
A: Yellow runs down its spine.

Q: Why do heroes always win?
A: Because they're protagonists.

Q: How is plot like pudding?
A: It's better when it thickens.

eBooks redefined light reading.

I know I've been writing too much when I begin dreaming in third person limited.

Turning the kindle upside down does not reveal the other side of the page.

I do not want your eyes glued to my book.  That makes turning the pages problematic.

Please don't make your characters jump off the page at me.  I'm old and it startles me when they do that.

Happy Friday everyone!

Please feel free to add your own Friday Funny in the comments!  I could use a good laugh.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Can't Believe I Birthed the Whole Thing

I expected to experience many things once I had truly completed my first draft.  But for some unknown reason I never really considered what is probably the most logical experience of them all... Exhaustion!

It's perfectly, totally logical to me now.  duh! Perhaps there were other factors at play.  It was a typing extravaganza that didn't finish until 4am.  I babysat two of my grandsons (aka Tasmanian Devil and Speedy Gonzales) the evening before and the day following.  And I awoke Sunday morning and realized that I hadn't eaten (yet again) all day Saturday.  I must remember to eat!

Of course, I experienced many other things as well: the thrill of completion, the disbelief that all those months of pounding keys (most notably "Delete" and "Backspace") had paid off, and an immense sense of accomplishment.  I fully expected to be walking on cloud nine for no less than a week!  And I am feeling like a zombie who can't even dance Michael Jackson's Thriller.


I am both pumped and pooped, psyched and spent, elated and exhausted.  Is this normal?  Was this to be expected?  Why did no one warn me of this?

And what frightens me most is that I have a good feeling of what's coming next: the roller coaster of doubt and insecurity.  The nagging notion that this would have been a really great story if someone who knew what they were doing had told it instead.  The fear that the writing is good but the story's a total dud.  Horror at realizing that what agents and publishers request are the three worst chapters I have.  And of seeing the word "AMATEUR" rubber stamped in red ink across the face of the front page.

I keep thinking, Is this a writer's version of postpartum blues?  Well, I'm a guy; my wife did all the hard work in that regard, but I do feel like I just gave birth to my firstborn.  (And a whopper at that!)

Maybe all that is normal too.  I know I can write, but did I write this draft well?  I know I can tell a story, but did I tell this story well?  Am I writing this post while exhausted?  You betcha.  It was necessary.  I wanted to capture the full gambit of emotions.  And it's a little therapeutic as well, I think.  The best cure for a self-doubting writer is to write, right?  So...

Hello.  My name is Jeff.  And I'm an amateur writer.

It's okay.  I'm comfortable with that for now.  All professionals began as amateurs.  Could I have written the story better?  Sure.  As much as I strive for perfection I fully realize that perfection is an unattainable goal.  Is the book too long?  Maybe not for an established author, but it is for an unknown who is seeking publication. Will I learn as a result of having written this?  Undoubtedly.  Have I already learned by writing this?  Oh yes, loads of stuff. 

So, I guess that makes me a successful amateur.  An exhausted amateur, but a successful one.  I'll strap in for the roller coaster ride, but I'm happy to finally be able to climb aboard.  I'm happy to have completed the draft.  I'm eager to begin the revisions and edits.  And I'm happily plotting my next book.

This amateur has a newly found respect for those who have accomplished the feat of completing a novel.  And a newly found confidence that you--yes you--can do it too!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Lucky 7 Meme (7-7-7 Challenge)

The Lucky 7 Meme

Charlie Holmberg tagged me with the infamous "7-7-7 Challenge" in her post here.  In truth, I almost missed it. This past week was a blur.  Life screamed by at Mach 7 when it wasn't approaching warp speed.  But I finished the draft and life is now decelerating.  A bit.

This 7-7-7 is one that I've been following for a while.  I love seeing the snippets people post.  It's the only (non-blog) writing I've managed to glimpse from some who have been tagged.  And the snippets always seem so fascinating.

My Lucky Seven
My Lucky Seven
The 7-7-7- Challenge Rules
  • Flip to page 77 of your current WIP.
  • Find line 7.
  • Post the 7 lines or sentences that follow.
  • Tag 7 more writers.

So here's mine.  Of course, it's mid-conversation...

“None taken, sir.” Daaron then muttered afterward, “Since you weren't calling me a lass.”

Abby ran her fingers through Daaron's shoulder length hair. “But you sure are pretty like one.”

Daaron stared open mouthed and said nothing. He had no idea how to reply to something like that. He figured it best not to try, so he snapped his mouth shut and spread his lips in a wide grin that told Abby she'd got the better of him that time. Daaron turned more serious as he looked at Tobin. “Is it a problem? Something I should worry about?”

The Hosiyin squeezed his sparkling staff tight as he answered. “I think not. It's just out of the ordinary.”

I tagged folks that I believe are writing or polishing up manuscripts and who also haven't been (at least recently) tagged for this.  Hopefully, I succeed.

My tags:  (Yes, I can count, but not all may be interested in participating.)

If you're not yet at page 77, drop back to page 7 or pull from an earlier work.  I'm curious to see your snippets!  :-)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

An Epic Fantasy Map

What good is an epic fantasy without maps, right?  Well, I have an epic fantasy.  And I have maps.  Several of them.  Too many of them, yet not all I need.  No, I'm not going to tell you how many maps I've made.  Why?  Because it's embarrassing. 

The map below is one of them.  It shows where the first eight or nine chapters of my epic fantasy take place.  Please keep in mind that the actual size of the map is about 20-30% larger than what is displayed here.  That means that the names of places are much easier to read on the original.

First off, please accept my apologies if this thing doesn't scale or render well on lower resolution (or smaller) displays.  I have limited devices on which to preview it.

I have a couple questions I'd like to ask, so if you don't mind, give the map a gander and scroll down.

Land of Dramar Map
(This map depicts a tiny fraction of the Strands of Pattern series' world.)

I posted this map to ask a couple questions.  I would appreciate your thoughts.
  • Do you reference maps provided in books?
  • If so, do you want one big map or multiple detailed maps?

(For those who may be curious, I did this in Microsoft Paint under Windows XP.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Little Things

I've come to realize that in writing, it's often the little things that bring a character to life more than anything else.  It's the little things that make our characters interesting, enjoyable, and sometimes frustrating.  Just like with us, they often tell people more about who we are than anything else.

Like when your crayon-wielding son gives you the illegible, hand-drawn Father's Day card--the one with the picture where you look more like a giraffe than a human and you search the entire house looking for a magnet that will hold it to the refrigerator.  Or when your daughter gives you the broken limb from a dogwood tree that you're expected to plant and keep alive until she's married because it has pretty flowers on it.

Those are wonderful snapshot moments in time.  But what if those moments occurred years ago?  Do they reveal only who we were as opposed to who we are?  Do they give our characters history?

Consider: In a few years that young father will age and become like me.  Upper-middle-aged.  A laundry list of new character-revealing traits emerge.  Like when said upper-middle-aged man ponders how it's even possible that a single eyebrow hair can grow to a full inch in length.  Overnight.  And how he must be careful when trimming that lone rogue with battery-powered hair trimmers using the one upper-middle-aged eye that can see around hands and clippers.

The aging father remembers how he prayed for hair to cover his smooth chest because all the other young fathers had hair and he had none.  And waking one morning to find that hair had indeed grown, but on top of his shoulders, down his back, out of his ears, and his chest was still bare.  How he made the mental note to be more specific in subsequent prayers and wondered if Gabriel and Michael peered down from Heaven pointing and giggling at God's latest prank.

I wrote in a previous post about how it's easy to capture the mundane, but where one detail can bore the reader with unnecessary information another detail can bring a character to life and do as much--if not more--than the primary plot can ever accomplish.

Maybe it's more important to see what Mom does while making breakfast than it is to know what she's serving.  Perhaps it's not little Johnny's refusal to eat his cabbage that fascinates us, but rather seeing the face he makes when Mom sets it on the table.  Suzie's math test may have received a bad grade, but watching her evade Dad when she brings it home tells us more about Suzie than the simple fact that she finds mathematics challenging.

Life is filled with these little moments of thought and behavior that when properly revealed to readers enables them to identify with our characters.  To love them or hate them or feel for them like we want.

What are the little things about your characters that will tell me who they truly are?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

And the Birdie Says...

My daughter can take it no longer.  "You've got to get on Twitter, Dad!"

"But I don't know what to tweet," I answer.  "That is the right word, isn't it?"

"Yes, Dad.  You tweet things."

"What things?"


"Like a Facebook status update?  I know how to do that!"

Sighs from your children are never good.  And I know what this one means. It means Dad, you can be so dumb sometimes.  She'd never say that aloud, of course.  But she does still make fun of my flip-phone.

"Well, I guess if Rockin' Robin can go tweet, tweet, tweet, I can too.  How do I do it?"

"You set up an account."

"Okay.  I've set up accounts before.  Can't be that tough.  Where?"

Her brows rise.  "Seriously?"

I flash her the puppy dog eyes so she won't scold me in front of my grandchildren.  ""  She gives me a slow nod.  I avoid her stare, bring up Firefox and start singing.  "All the little birds on Twitter Street, like to hear the Paw Paw go tweet tweet tweet."  My grandkids give their mom that Is Grandpa okay? look.  I make a face at them and sing louder.  "Rockin' Paw Paw, tweet tweet.  Rockin' Paw Paw, tweet tweet."

"Please, Dad.  You're scaring the kids.  You're a writer, not a singer.  Stick to what you can do, okay?"

So I took the plunge.  During the course of getting everything set up and configured, I learned things, things like "Skip this step" really does mean you can skip the step--except when your daughter says not to.  I learned that I didn't know five tweeter handles I wanted to follow and couldn't help but wrinkle my nose at those Twitter suggested.  I learned that forty-eight-year-old parents should not set up Twitter accounts without one of their children supervising.

Some things I didn't learn despite asking, like when I said, "Wait a minute.  If I'm limited to 140 bytes then how can I upload a picture?"  Instead of answering, she laughed.  Hard.  Hey, I thought it was a good question, but I didn't press since she was doubled over and trying to breathe through snorts of uncontrollable laughter.  I'll just Google it.

But, hey, it's spring time now and I'm twitterpated!  (Gotta play off Bambi whenever possible, I always say.)  But be warned, I've yet to tweet anything.  For the first time in my life, I don't know what to say.  I just feel like my first time should be...special, you know?

140 characters?  Polaroids of the digital age.

You can find me at @JeffreySHargett  (I may have to look into upgrading that old flip phone after all.)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Interview with Jaq D. Hawkins, Author of The Goblin Series

Jaq is one busy soul with many irons in many fires.  She's published a number of books and dropped by to tell us a little about herself, her books and offer a few words of advice to writers seeking publication.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Jaq D. Hawkins
I've always been a writer. It became a serious life goal in high school, when I was 14. I started learning about the writing business then, but I had a fairly mobile life that has had me living in more than one country so I spent many of my 'practice' years having adventures that would eventually add to my experiences to draw on for my fiction.

When were you first published?
I settled down and started serious writing in the late 1980's. I started with articles for occult magazines as an editor asked me to write something specific, then had my first book ready for publication in 1994. It would be two more years before I found the right publisher for it. After that I churned out several more books including the Spirits of the Elements series which formed much of my early reputation. Then the first goblin novel assaulted me and demanded to be written in 2004, which distracted me from my other writing. I've been writing fiction ever since, with a small hiatus for filmmaking which I blame on the goblins.

You’ve produced a fair number of books over the years.  Do you find yourself gravitating to any particular themes in your books?
Somehow Alchemy has a way of getting into my books as well as film scripts. There are few exceptions, it didn't get into my first Steampunk book, although it may well sneak into the sequel.

At what point in writing a novel do you know that it’s a stand-alone story never to be revisited versus a book that will have sequels?
Within the first two chapters. When I started writing Dance of the Goblins, I had no specific plan. Then I started taking notes for the sequels, and by chapter four I knew it had to become a film. The Wake of the Dragon (Steampunk) demanded just one sequel. The Chase For Choronzon which is an unfinished Fantasy book will be stand alone. Technically all my books are stand alone as each provides a full story that can be read individually, but the sequels start their stories at some time after previous books in the series and use some of the same characters.

What do you find is your primary motivation for writing?  Is it different than your motivation for publishing? 
As I said, I've always been a writer. I started my first autobiography on notepaper with a pencil when I was six. It's just part of who I am. Publishing is a two-fold motivation. I like to share my stories, and I would like to make at least a meagre living from it so that I don't have to interrupt my writing time with a day job.

When writing a novel, what comes easiest to you and what is the most difficult?
Until recently, fight scenes were a bit of a struggle. I seem to have cracked that with the battle in Demoniac Dance (first sequel to Dance of the Goblins). The rest is fairly easy. I sit down to write in the morning and the next part of the story just comes.

How long, on average, does it take for you to go from idea to completed manuscript and what is the process like for you?
It varies. Dance of the Goblins took me over and I kept adding to it every morning before work and every afternoon when I got home for four months, then it was done. Wake of the Dragon was similar although it fit into the once a day writing slot I've established. Demoniac Dance and Chase For Choronzon were both about six chapters in when something else required my attention, then I went back to finish them. I would say four to six months active writing time goes into each book.

What is the highest praise you could hear from one of your readers?
Simply that they enjoyed it enough to want more. I love going back to my goblin world. Like Count Anton, I'd love to be able to stay there, but we cannot. 

Is there a book you’d love to write, but know you never will?
Not really, I take notes when ideas occur and keep writing, even if filmmaking slows the process.

What’s next on your plate?
Having just finished Demoniac Dance, I'll be putting some serious time into film editing which is needed but I will be slowly working on a book of short stories related to the Goblin Series which I can use for freebies and introducing new readers to that world. I will also make slow progress of The Chase for Choronzon for a while as the third goblin book nags at me. Eventually it will win.

Can we expect anything more from you this year or next?
Demoniac Dance will be available in April, the publisher is only waiting for the cover art now. Wake of the Dragon should also be out within the next couple of months. Meat for the Storytelling, a book of short stories related to the Goblin Series will be finished and released by August and The Chase For Choronzon should be out by the end of the year. Power of the Dance and the sequel to Wake of the Dragon are still in early stages, but I would certainly expect them to be finished and released by sometime in 2013.

Who has had the biggest influence on your writing?
The two authors most responsible for my need to have a Fantasy world of my own are Marion Zimmer Bradley because of her Darkover books and Roger Zelazny, author of the Amber series. Anne McCaffrey added to that with her Dragonriders books.

Can you reveal a "secret" about yourself that almost no one else knows?
I'm a Scorpio, I don't give away my secrets any more than the goblins do. ;)

  • Color: Deep wine red
  • Number: 11
  • Season: Autumn
  • Food and/or beverage: Mexican!
  • Song: I have broad musical tastes, but I'll choose "Airship Pirates" by Abney Park as that inspired my Steampunk novel.
  • Movie: Yellow Submarine
  • Book: Besides my own? ;) David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Do you have any recommendations or advice for writers who aspire to be published?
Study the business side of writing and develop a thick skin. Most of all though, make sure you've got a perfect manuscript format and edit out all those typos and other anomalies. Get someone else to read specifically for them. If you're lazy, get another job, this isn't an easy ride.

Where can we find your books?
The easy way is to go to my own website but current outlet links are:
Amazon (US)
Amazon (UK)
Hard copy

For my Mind, Body Spirit books:
Chaos Magic Series
Spirits of the Elements Series

There will be some new links soon as Paganarchy Press is about to re-issue Dance of the Goblins and will release Demoniac Dance in both hard copy and electronic formats, but the Smashwords link above will lead to the E-books and any other information will appear on my website.

How can we follow you?
Author Website
My Blog

Thank-you Jaq for stopping by and chatting!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thus Saith the Muse

These are the commandments given to me by my muse.  By following them I'm guaranteed neither salvation nor success.  But by breaking them, I'm inviting failure.

I - Thou shalt make no excuses, only time to write.
Writing is a choice.  A writer is one who has chosen to discipline his writing.  An author is a writer who has successfully persevered in his chosen discipline.

II - Thou shalt indulge inspiration, foster creativity, and write what thou loveth.
Food is the nourishment for people.  Imagination is the nourishment for writers.  Feed it.  Let it grow.  Nourish the reader.

III - Thou shalt not waste thine words or thy reader's time.
Don't over-describe.  Don't capture the mundane.  Make every page count and every word serve a purpose.

IV - Remember thy plot lines and keep them true.
Plot begins with the story.  The plot is a promise.  To write the story is to promise the reader a satisfying and fulfilling conclusion.  Don't forget the promise.  And don't betray the reader's trust.

V - Honor thy grammar and thy punctuation that thy writing might endure.
Don't confuse your readers.  Engage them.  Challenge them.  Make them work at guessing what comes next, not what they just read.  They want to accompany you on the journey.  Let them.

VI - Thou shalt not kill thine characters without purpose.
Nothing in fiction should be senseless.  Everything must have purpose.  If you don't know why your fictional event happened then your readers won't know either.

VII - Thou shalt remain faithful to the readers of thine words.
Make promises to your readers and fulfill every one of them.  Promise them the world and deliver it.  Entice them.  Satisfy them.

VIII - Thou shalt not plagiarize nor cite without credit.
The wise learn from others.  And the wise credit those from whom they've learned.

IX - Thou shalt not write fiction without researching facts.
If your protagonist lives in the Ozarks, he cannot look through his window and see the Gulf of Mexico's gentle waves lapping the coastline. 

X - Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's success.
Words are free.  The experiences they convey can be priceless.  Crafting those experiences comes at a cost.  Revel in the success of your peers as you would have them revel in yours.

There are, of course, many more commandments that my muse whispers while I write.  This post only had room for ten.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Bad Day in Fictionville

Life can get interesting in Realville, but it's seldom book-worthy.  For book-worthiness, one must relocate to Fictionville.

Bad Day in Realville Bad Day in Fictionville
Steve slumbered 20 extra minutes before rising for work. Steve woke 20 minutes after he was supposed to be at work.
Steve showered and shaved quickly to make up for lost time. The hot water heater died during the night, he forgot to pick up deodorant yesterday, and he cut himself shaving.
Steve got a speeding ticket on the way into work. Steve's car was stolen while he slept overnight.
Steve received a reprimand for being late to work. Steve got fired for not showing up to work for the fifth time this month (and it's only the 10th).
Steve stopped by the courthouse on his way home to pay his fine. Steve called the police to report his car stolen. The police arrive six hours later to file the report.
Steve has an accident on the way home and has to rent a car from Budget Rentals. Steve tries to rent a car from Budget Rentals, but his credit card is maxed out and he's declined.
Steve tries to relax by watching his favorite prime time TV show. It's been preempted. Steve returns home to find his house burglarized and has to wait another six hours for the police to arrive.
Steve learns from life's experiences and sets his alarm 20 for minutes earlier. Steve notices that the burglars stole his alarm clock too.

Yes, Steve had a bad day in Realville. But things got really bad for Steve after he moved to Fictionville.  And a whole lot more interesting.

Writing real is essential. However, it's easy for writers to write too real when we write fiction. Too real can capture the mundane rather than the mystery and excitement.  No matter how bad things are, they can always be worse.

In Realville, Steve's friends would sympathize. But readers would rather hear about Steve's bad day after he moved to Fictionville.

So, have all your characters left the bland existence of Realville and headed for Fictionville?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Interview with "Daughter of Hauk" author, KateMarie Collins

Strands Of Pattern welcomes KateMarie Collins who is no doubt still happy dancing over her newly published debut novel.  She dropped by to tell us a little about her book, herself and more.  Please welcome KateMarie. 

The obvious first question: What's Daughter of Hauk about?
Redemption, accountability, forgiveness.  The main character, Arwenna, has been set up to help a demon lord gain a foothold in her world.  Only she doesn’t know it until she’s executed and memories that had been hidden from her for most of her life come through.  She’s able to return and tries to stop the very thing she helped let loose onto the world.

And for those of us who find this tantalizing, when and where can we get it?
It’s available for sale via my publisher’s (Solstice Publishing) website, and also on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

Is there a sequel in the future?
I’m still on the first draft of the sequel, but it is in the works.

What inspired you to write this story?
Many of the characters originated in a Dungeons and Dragons game that ended badly.  My character from that game, Arwenna, was resurrected in a different game.  There wasn’t any way to describe what happened in the game itself, so I wrote a short story about it and sent it off to my friends.  Everyone, including me, started wondering about what happened next.  Two and a half months later, the first draft was finished.

What about this book did you find most unsettling or difficult, and how did you come to terms with it?
Some of the things that happen to Arwenna that she can’t prevent weren’t easy to write.  Not necessarily because it was hard to describe, but because I’d been in similar situations in my life.  While therapeutic in some ways, it wasn’t easy to do to the character.

Considering everything you've endured working on this project, from idea germination to publishing, would you do it all again?
Absolutely.  The highs of getting a scene just right, having a contract offered to you, seeing your cover art for the first time, are all infinitely more satisfying than any of the lows were.  Sure, I got turned down by publishers before Solstice said yes.  But I’d rather keep working towards the yes than give up.

If Daughter of Hauk were made into a movie, who would you cast for the primary roles?
Arwenna – Ashley Green
Hauk – Liam Neeson
Senyan – Tom Felton
Joss – Taylor Kitsch
Barek – Jason Momoa
Lexi – Emma Watson
Bohrs – Johnny Depp
Y’Durkie – Jennifer Garner

Keep in mind, this is very much a dream cast.  Some of the characters have some quirks about them that may only be found during casting…and in unlikely people.

What other writing have you done and where can we find it?
I’ve had short stories in both issues of Winters Night magazine and in the first three issues of LQQK magazine.  I’d like to continue working with LQQK magazine as time allows, as the staff is wonderful.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I’ve got three different novels in various stages of a first draft.  One is the sequel to ‘Daughter of Hauk’, the second is more of a YA fantasy novel, and the third is an expansion on a story that appeared in the first issue of Winters Night.

Is there a book you'd love to write, but know you never will?  If so, tell us about it.
I like a good mystery, but I doubt I’d ever write one.  You really need to have a clear idea of not only who did it, but why and where to put out a clue or a red herring for the detective (reader) to follow.  I’m simply not that well organized.

Are you a "discovery writer" or an "outliner" (or somewhere in the middle?)
I write by the seat of my pants.  I have a starting point and an ending in mind and have great fun finding out what’s going to happen in between.  I live for a ‘what if’ moment that can take the story into a completely new direction.  I had someone compliment me on being able to hide and reveal things to my reader at just the right time.  When you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen on the next page, it makes it easier for the reader to remain in the dark as well.
Which authors do you most admire and does it show in your writing?
I loved David Eddings and the way he inserted a sense of reality/normality into his characters.  They actually behaved and talked like most people, stressed over being in positions to do great things, and doubted they could.  Nick Pollotta is another of my favorite writers.  He injects a tremendous sense of humor into his writing.  He’s one of the few authors that will make me laugh aloud.

As an author, what is the legacy for which you'd most like to be remembered?
As an author who created stories you remember, characters that stay with you.
And as an individual?
That I faced my own fears and self doubt and didn’t give up after the first rejection.

Can you reveal a "secret" about yourself that almost no one else knows?
I’m a terrible critic of my writing and would stop every third word to correct something if I watched myself type.  To combat this, I type with my eyes closed and let my fingers find the words for the picture in my head.  I write about 90% of my stories this way.


  •   ColorJewel tones, anything but pastels
  •   Number112595 (no, I’m not explaining why)
  •   SeasonI don’t think I have a favorite season, but I’m most comfortable on an overcast day, slight breeze, around 65 for a high.
  •   Food and/or beverageStuffed mushrooms, spiced cider
  •   Song“Into the West” from LOTR: RotK by Annie Lennox
  •   MovieLOTR trilogy.  Especially the last one. 
  •   BookAnything by Nick Pollotta, David Eddings, Patricia Kennelly Morrison, or Stephen Boyett.

What advice do you have for writers who want to see their work published?
Don’t give up.  Polish left and right.  Find friends you know will actually tell you the truth (over saying “it’s great” when it’s not) to give you feedback.  Be patient.  The internet has made submissions easier, but it still takes time.  Be polite.  Yes, it may be 6 weeks past the initial ‘we’ll get back to you’ date, but you should still be nice when you inquire where your manuscript is in the queue.

Do you have a blog, website, twitter-feed, etc. where your fan base can learn all you're willing to share?
I’ve got a Facebook Fan Page that I keep updated with blog interviews, appearances, and such. 
On Twitter, I’m @DaughterHauk.  I just got started with it, though, so it’ll be a while before I update it as often as I do Facebook. 
I have a brand new Blog: KateMarieCollins 
You can also request a Kindlegraph from me!

So everyone, now that you have (hopefully) filed those dreaded tax forms and (hopefully) have a refund coming, consider taking a few bucks of it and adding KateMarie's Daughter of Hauk to your reading queue. And be sure to drop her a note in the comments!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to Train Your Muse

Face it.  Training a muse is like training a cat to play the violin, and doing so without any experience and only being available to train it part-time. 

Or is it?

If you'd have asked me yesterday why I've written so many posts recently about Miss Muse I'd have stammered a bit before answering.  Thinking about it now, many reasons jump to mind, but they're the obvious reasons.  They make for good stories, funny moments and provide a means to a (hopefully) insightful post about creativity and inspiration.  I think the real reason lies much deeper.

I've recently noticed I have an interesting tendency.  I've gone back and read things that I've written in chronological order--everywhere.  I'm not just talking blog posts or chapters from my novel.  Those are the obvious places to look.  I found that this tendency bleeds into emails at work and home, even the little notes I jot down when I get ideas for something new to write.

The tendency?  To continue on a theme for an extended period of time.

It doesn't matter what this theme is.  It doesn't matter where this theme comes from either.  Once it gets lodged in my brain it stays there.  Percolating.  Simmering.  Oozing out in things I say and words I write.

This manifests itself in odd ways.  The most common manifestation is that I use the same words over and over and over.  Everywhere.  Odd words that I rarely use.  Or words I'm suddenly using in different ways, invoking their non-primary definitions.  Lately it's been words like linger and ponder.

So, on what have I been pondering and lingering lately?  Creativity and inspiration.  Hands down, without a doubt.  I'm into the climax of my book.  Sweat beads from my brow as I try to craft the perfect ending to my tale.  It's not easy.  It makes me a little nervous.  I'm groping for that inspiration, that creative flash of revelation that's going to make the ending perfect.

From the depths of my subconscious I'm longing to capture Miss Muse, hold her hostage until I complete this huge undertaking to which I've committed myself.  But such drastic measures aren't really necessary.  She doesn't want me trap her.  She doesn't even want me to entice her.  She wants me to invite her.

Therefore, I must train myself, not my muse.  I must find the pattern of her visits, when she likes to stop by, when she's willing to interrupt--and most importantly--when I'm most apt to listen.  I must train myself to prepare for those visits of hers and to take advantage of them.

Facebook bores her.  Bring it up and she's gone.  Catching up on emails?  Same thing.  No one wants to tarry where they don't feel welcome.  Not even Miss Muse.

It always comes down to discipline, doesn't it?  So no, this post isn't really about training our muses.  It's about training ourselves.  We are our own muses.  So I hope I can train myself better than I can train a cat.

So tell me, folks.  How do you train your muse?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Muse Tried to Kill Me Today

"Not in the car!" I told her.  "We've talked about this!  I'm driving.  Fast!"

"Just jot it down, Jeff.  You got that new gadget, didn't you?  Use it."

"I can't type on virtual keyboards driving 65 miles per hour," I growled.

"Well, doesn't it have one of those thingies built into it?  You know, one of those recorder things?"

"Probably.  I don't know.  I ain't got it all figured out yet.  It's still new."

"Come on, Jeff.  You work with computers!  What's taking you so long?"

"I'm old," I quipped.  Old people like me get cranky sometimes--especially on highways doing 65mph while dodging other drivers equally distracted by muses of their own.  "Can't you just hold that thought until I get into town?  We'll hit a bunch of red lights.  I promise."

"Well what about one of those little thingies that you talk to and it plays it back for ya?  You wouldn't have to type or write anything then, just run your mouth like you usually do."

If I could have found her eyes I'd have given her a real meaningful stare about then.  But she had been spouting some mighty good stuff the whole way into work.  I needed to stay on her good side.  But still... "Where were you before I left the house this morning?  Or over the weekend for that matter?  I'd could have written everything down then."

"Oh, Jeff.  You think I ain't got nothing better to do than to memorize your schedule?  I'm a free spirit.  I'm not just a 9-to-5 girl, you know."

No, I thought to myself.  You're a pop-in-while-Jeff's-driving kind of girl.  "Well, I waited on you last night.  You stood me up.  Again."

"You know, you might try coming up with some of this stuff yourself sometime.  It's not that hard."

"Woah!  Hang on!  Some dude behind me's a sniffin' my tailpipe!"  I find twelve feet of empty space between two cars on my right and swerve into it like the crazy old coot that I am.  "You're gonna get me killed!"

"Wow, who taught you how to drive?"

My back stiffened and I quietly told her, "I'm a safe driver, thank-you, when people aren't distracting me."

"If you say so.  Are you gonna write any of this down or not?  I ain't got all day to spend with you.  One of my other clients is writing this juicy love scene in a romantic novella."  She grinned.  "He's cute too."

"Well, go check on him then.  I'll see if I can't find one of those little recorder thingies after work.  Okay?"

"Okay.  I'll pop in later, Jeff.  Drive safe now!"

Alrighty folks, I'm curious.  Any of your muses ever put your well-being in jeopardy?  Daydreaming atop a ladder?  Crossing the street?  Stumbling through the kitchen in the dark?  Go ahead.  Let me know.  I won't tell anyone.  Not even Miss Muse.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Things With Which I Struggle

As writers, we all have our strengths and weakness.  When we identify our strengths we can exploit them.  When we identify our weaknesses we can watch for them.  I'm exposing myself in this post. (Don't worry, not like that!)  I'm revealing what I believe are mine.

Since I prefer my blog posts to be positive I'll start out with listing a few things that I think are my strengths.  I'll do the weaknesses list afterwards.  It's longer.

  • Dialog.  I think this might be my strongest area.  I've been told by several kind folks that I write believable dialog.
  • POV.  I'm pretty good at staying within the desired point of view.  I write almost exclusively in third person limited, past tense.  I'm most comfortable with it.  (I've tinkered more with first person lately, however.  Maybe I'm blogging too much?)
  • Grammar.  I've got a decent handle on most of the more basic rules of grammar.  (How I ever managed this is completely beyond me.  I literally despised English in high school, a fact to which my grades bear witness.)  I break the rules quite often, but it's usually intentional.  Sometimes it's for effect.  Sometimes it's because I'm still a rebel at heart.

I've listed my numerous weakness in no particular order. If the day ever comes when you find yourself critiquing my writing, you'll need to watch for:

  • Wordiness.  I'm too wordy. Period.  This manifests itself in everything I write and requires serious editing to correct.
  • Prepositional Phrases.  Somewhat related to the above, these things spew from me like rain from thunderclouds.  (See?  Three of them in the very statement stating I have the problem!  How lame is that?)
  • Repetition. I say something.  Then I say it again.  And again and again.  (Get my meaning?)  My thesaurus wants a raise.
  • Passive voice.  It just comes so unbelievably natural to me.
  • Proofreading.  I read what I intended to say, not what I actually wrote.  I know I'm supposed to read my sentences backwards.  It helps you spot duplicated or omitted words and makes catching typos a little easier.  But really, half my life is backwards.  I rarely do it.
  • Commas.  Commas appear in my sentences everywhere I pause, before something I want to emphasize or set apart, when I take a breath, and normally before the word but.  I overuse them.
  • Spelling.  This is how I know God loves me.  He gave me spell check!

So, when I post short stories, please feel free to comment on them.  Even those that have been up for a while.  Let me know if you enjoyed it--or if you didn't.  Heck, posting a critique in the comments is fine too!  I've got a thick skin and I like to know what worked and what didn't.  Constructive feedback helps not only me, but anyone else reading it too.

We learn by doing.  And we learn by feedback.  Our biggest weaknesses are the ones we don't know we have!

I'm all done exposing myself now.  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  And how do you exploit or watch for them?