Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You and I

To all the teachers who taught me grammar I'm compelled to confess...

We're great together, you and I.  For it is only I that accompanies you.  But alas there come times you and I must part and you should instead be together with me.  It's not always easy to see, but sometimes you really should be with me.

No one appreciates you and I.  They only appreciate you and me.  It matters not if they use your name.  For I gets left out just the same.

You and I are a compound subject.  But when you are with me, we make a compound object, see?  For with or without you, I am the subject, but the object is always me.

Our English teachers spent years beating "You and I" into our heads because "you" should always precede "I" when used as compound subjects in our sentences.  They should have also beat into our noggins that "you" precedes "me" in our compound objects as well.

Just remember that whether we're alone or not, it is I that does things and that things are always done to me.

Grammar Girl does a good job explaining this in her
Between You and Me  post. Other references can also be found by performing an internet search using grammar, compound object, and You and I as keywords.

Come August 4th, Myra and I will have been married for twenty-eight years! (I am now bowing to your awesome applause.)  But twenty-eight years ago, wedding gifts were given to Myra and me.

No, I am not an authority on grammar.  I do, however, try to abide by the rules of the language when I know them.  I break them intentionally at times.  I break them without intending to sometimes as well.  As is the case with most of us, I am still learning and will continue to learn.  Let us improve together.

Monday, July 30, 2012

August is Awesome and Coming Soon!

I'm so excited about this upcoming August.  So many awesome people have agreed to stop by Strands of Pattern.  Some will entertain.  Some will encourage.  Some will challenge you.  But they all will inspire you with their awesomeness. 

I never beg and plead for folks to drop by my blog, but I'm making an exception for August.  I really want to give everyone the opportunity to meet some of the awesome people I've met.

You've probably encountered some of these awesome people.  You may have stumbled upon their blogs, read their books, laughed at their tweets, watched them on YouTube, chatted with them on Facebook or Google+, or you may have corresponded with them via email.  Some of them you may have even met in person.

But I can guarantee you this: you've not met them all and you really should!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Surfing

Surfing, Sailing, Snoozing: Take Your Pick

3 Simple Mistakes That Can Kill Your Chances Of Having A Bestseller

Carolina Beach 2012
10 Reasons to Self-Publish–No More Excuses  (Comments contain a nice 10 Reasons NOT to Self-Publish.)

Effective Tweeting with Tonya Kappes  (Guest Post at Laura Howard's Finding Bliss.)

Does Social Media Really Help With Success?

The Fantasy Tavern  (on Facebook)

The Writer's Diet Test  (This is a must try!)

Copyright Education  (Highly recommended reading for bloggers.)

Critique Circle Online Writing Workshop

Writer's Den at Fantasy Faction: Lights Camera Action  (What to do and remember when writing action scenes.)

August is coming SOON!
 (And so are some awesome people!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Itch

There it is again.  That itch in the back of my head.  You know the spot, right?  Just a few inches above the neckline and a little behind the ear.  Does no good to scratch at it.  The itch is too deep to reach.

I steal a glance over my shoulder.  I know she’s nearby.  She always shows up right after the itching starts.  A little like someone always ends up knocking at Jed Clampett’s door right after the music in the walls stops playing.  She does love making an entrance.

Yes, she plants the seed and the itching starts.  And then I wait.  Not long.  Just long enough for the itch to mutate into a tingle.  The quick grow fertilizer she uses causes the tingle.  It’s her own proprietary formula, I’m sure.  Something like Miracle Grow for the imagination.

I can’t help but wonder what she planted.  A new story idea?  A character?  A scene?  She never plants an entire story.  It might be nothing more than a line of dialog causing that itch.  She’s funny that way, my muse.

I’ll sit and ponder, patiently waiting for her to do her thing.  I’ve learned not to rush her.  Mere moments will pass before I hear her disembodied giggle.  She’ll show herself then, maybe with a wink, perhaps a wry grin, but always with contagious excitement dancing on her face.  She’ll nibble on her lower lip and bounce those pretty brows.  That’s her way of telling me it’s time to scratch and discover what’s sprouting from that itchy spot in the back of my head.

She's so awesome, that muse of mine.

How do you know when your muse is near?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

To Blazes With the Formula

So far this year I've critiqued four complete novels, dozens of chapters and a boatload of short stories.  I've also had my own novel critiqued by others in addition to it receiving a thorough inspection by a professional developmental (content) editor.  I think I've learned something through all this.

Forget the formula!  At least during the first draft.

(Yeah, that advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, but I'm almost sold on itBesides, that advice isn't aimed at seasoned, professional authors steadily pumping out a book or three a year.)

Is a formula needed to tell a good story?  I don't think so.  But a formula is needed to tell a story well.

So why forget it?  Because the purpose of the first draft is not to write a best seller.  The purpose of the first draft (for me at least) is to tell the story that I might one day be able to sell.

I wrote The Bonding with little thought to a three act structure beyond knowing I needed a beginning, a middle, and an ending.  But face it, little thought was required.  All stories have a beginning, middle and end.  My first draft would have suffered immensely had I focused on formula over story.  My first draft was never destined for Amazon's KDP, nor were its first three chapters queued up in my email's outbox.  

Once you've got your multiple book contract or you're writing to meet deadlines imposed upon you by your publisher, you've probably got the knack of storytelling down fairly well.  That means you probably already write to formula without the formula sitting in the forefront of your mind--where your muse should be sitting.

If, while penning or typing that initial draft, you're concentrating on the three steps of this or the seven points of that, you're not concentrating on what matters.  You can't just stop the creative juices and yell, "Oh crap! I forgot my faux resolution!"  Most of us who entertain a muse know a muse doesn't like to be stopped on a technicality.  Technicalities are for later, for rewrites and revisions--not first drafts.

I'm not advocating that you banish the time-honored building blocks of crafting a story, I'm saying craft the story.  I've never met an author who writes a perfect first draft.  Get the story out.  Let it flow.  Let it grow.  Let it be all it can be.  Once done, then examine its structure.  Mold it.  Massage it.  Perform surgery on it, whether it be a nip and tuck or an amputation or a transplant.

Give some thought to structure and formula while you plot and outline.  Weigh the draft once it's finished and see if it balances the equation.  Measure it against the markers of accepted storytelling practices once the muse has quieted and smiles in satisfaction.  Only then can it be fully and properly evaluated.

There is wisdom in choosing the right tool for the right job, but there is also wisdom in choosing the right time to do the job.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Awesome People

Over time, a blog takes on a personality.  That personality is usually an aspect or extension of the blogger's personality.  The personality may not be easily pegged or defined, but it's there none-the-less, just as unique as its author.

And because each blog is unique it offers its readers something no other blog can offer: a glimpse into the heart, mind and soul of its author.  And what I've found is that behind every awesome blog is an even more awesome individual.

So I've set myself on a mission.

I'm huntin' awesome people! 

But some of you awesome people like hiding, being elusive and playing hard to find.  You want me to work, dig, crawl, climb and wedge myself into the various nooks and crannies of cyberspace in order to catch you.

But catch you I will.

I'll catch you because your awesomeness demands that you be caught.  It begs to be paraded for all to see.  And I intend to put it on display next month.

I'm planning an Awesome August by introducing awesome people to other awesome people.  I've already caught some of you, but not all.  And if I don't catch you, it won't be for a lack of my upper middle-aged legs trying.

So, be vewy, vewy quiet.  I'm huntin' awesome people!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday Surfing

How to Write from all Five Senses to Awake Your Fiction

7 Steps to Overcoming a Bad Book Review  (This one I enjoyed as much for the presentation as for the content.)

3 Tips for Writing Heavy Emotional Scenes  (I actually did a little of this in my first book without realizing it.)

Are you Left-Brained or Right-Brained  (The illusion is quite fun.  This one hurt my brain after a bit.  I can apparently switch at will though.)

5 Ways to Promote Your Book Right Now

Cracking the Kindle Code with WiDo Publishing

Sustenance for the Road

Revenge of the Neglected Muse  (I can so relate.)

9 Step Blog Checklist to Make Sure Your Posts Get Maximum Exposure  (Maybe I should try some of these.)

Akinator  (Guesses who you're thinking of, famous person or fictional character.  So accurate it's spooky.  A must try!)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Beautiful Blogger Award

Morgan Prince from Shaking Away the Cobwebs gave me the Beautiful Blogger Award, citing her appreciation of my "Sunday Surfing" posts.

Morgan awarded me this all the way back on the 18th of June.  I apologize for getting the post together so late, but the past several weeks have been brutal on the time front.

The 'rules' for the award are:
1) Pass the award on to seven beautiful bloggers, and
2) List seven random facts about myself.

I do realize that all these random facts I've revealed about myself over the past couple months is reaching the point of Too-Much-Information, but rules are rules and they should be upheld--except, of course, when they shouldn't be.  (Kinda like writing rules, you see.)

So here they are:

1. All facts about me are speculative fiction.

2. I'm a procrastinator.  I've been wanting to improve, but keep putting it off.

3. I'm lazy.  I've been trying to do better, but can't muster the energy to do so.

4. I'm indecisive.  I want to make firm, solid choices, but can't decide which ones.

5. I'm easily entertained.  I laugh at all my jokes.

6. I know I'm getting old.  My bifocals tell me so.

7. I know I'm getting old.  People tell me I sometimes repeat myself.

I do apologize for putting off completing this post (#2) for so long.  Blame my lazy (#3) nature, not to mention the smudges on the specs (#6) making it difficult to see the tiny little letters on the monitor.  Please don't speculate (#1) that my procrastinating had anything to do with the fact that my blogging is more beautiful than that of others (#5) either.

Just know that I'm deciding (#4) to award the Beautiful Blogger Award to *ALL* my followers because you're *ALL* beautiful and I think you're beautiful (#7) too!

I just can't shake the feeling that I'm forgetting something...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Love Muscle

In my story, Alpha Among Dragons, the dragons refer to the heart as the life muscle.  In this post, I'm referring to the heart as the love muscle.

Perhaps I'm still dealing with the grief from the loss of my mother-in-law, but I can't help thinking about the grief and losses to come in the future.  I've been married for 28 years, well over half my life, and I can't really fathom--let alone prepare myself for--the heartaches ahead.

I still have the fortune of having a happy, healthy mother in my life.  She's 70 now.  She may have decades ahead, but I know--barring my death coming first--that it's coming.  And so is the devastation such loss brings.

My wonderful wife has a few years on me, but with average lifespans being what they are, it's an even bet which of us will have to endure that unbearable sorrow.  My selfish half wants to pass first and avoid what will likely be the most devastating period of my lifetime.  My selfless half wishes the opposite to spare my wife from that very same thing.

And then there are my children to consider.  My greatest fear has always been having to bury my son or daughter.  No parent should have to endure that.  I know some who have and I can't help but wonder how they find the strength to carry on.

I have grandchildren now, three wonderful boys.  I hope to see them grow, graduate and have children of their own.  God willing, I'll be able to do that.

I guess the point of this post is simply to say that the time to cherish--and remember--loved ones is while they're still with us, when they can can know and return that love.  Time is short.  Love endures.  Make your time count.  Exercise your love muscle so that its love will be ever stronger.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

To Woo and Shoo

Being sentient humans, we all have views.  Being individuals, the whole of our views are quite likely unique.  Being writers, we can (and should) explore those views.  But being authors, we should carefully weigh the costs of expressing our views outside of our fiction.

I not only expect a politician to spout their beliefs at every opportunity, I want them to do so.  How can I make an informed decision about which candidates best represent my views otherwise?  I want candidates to fully and plainly lay out for me what they believe and why.  I neither need nor want to know the political views of others.

I want to watch athletes run, pass, dribble, swing and score.  I want to hear musicians play.  I want to behold the artistry of dancers.  I want to appreciate the beauty painters and sculptors create.  I want to laugh with comics, cry with actors and be riveted by authors' skill.

Basically, I want to be entertained, not educated or persuaded, by entertainers.  I don't want them to woo me or shoo me.  Society is already replete with experts in religion, science, sociology, politics, philosophy, ethics, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights and pretty much anything else you can imagine. 

It's not necessarily a good thing that I know your views on things like politics, religion or philosophy--even if I agree with them.  Why?  Because if I agree with you then someone else doesn't.  And while I may be able to separate the art from the artist, there are many who can't--or won't!

Remember SinĂ©ad O'Connor ripping that picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live?  Did she believe in what she was doing?  Undoubtedly.  Did she pay a heavy price for it?  Definitely.

How about the Dixie Chicks lamenting the fact that then President Bush was from Texas?  Can you say "career killer" in as few words?

What about Jane Fonda?  Till the day he died, my father remembered her only as Hanoi Jane.  And he never watched 9 to 5 because she starred in it.

I have as many viewpoints on as many topics as anyone else.  I'm quite passionate about a few of them too.  And yes, I do express them, but in the right place at the right time and in the right way.  (Or so I hope.)  I don't do it here.  This is a blog about writing, about becoming an author, and about finding success in that pursuit.

What I mean to say is that holding views--even being passionate about those views--is fine.  It's normal.  It's good!  But when your goal is to market and promote your product or yourself to the general public, do your best to separate your views from your brand.

There are already plenty of reasons people won't buy or read what you write.  Why add more to the list?

My name is Jeff.  And I approved this message.

Tell me your thoughts.  Flip side?  Can your brand be too pure?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday Surfing

A quick note on these Sunday Surfing posts: People have asked where I find all these links, how I whittle them down to just a few, where I find the time to do it, etc.

Some links I find simply by following people's blogs.  (For example, Charlie Holmberg usually coughs up some good links on her Link Blitz posts every Friday at Myself as Written.)  Other links find their way into my email inbox or my Twitter feed.  I grab a link or two from group memberships (like Yahoo's Fantasy Writing group) or posts linked by inkPageant.

Of course, I stumble upon one here and there just by surfing too.  And when I encounter one that I think others will find useful or entertaining I do like Mom taught me.  I share.


MEDICALERT: The Scourge of Premature Submission  (Found this link thanks to Sarah Bowers.) 

Gate Crashers - The lucky 13s: 13 authors with debut novels in 2013:
Gate Crashers at Ink & Angst pt 1
Gate Crashers at Ink & Angst pt 2
Gate Crashers at Ink & Angst pt 3

Book Blogs

1st Annual $1000 Mom Blogger Scholarship for Aspiring and Existing Bloggers

4 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

Research Links  (lots of 'em all grouped into numerous categories.)

The Hottest Tip No Fiction Writer Can Afford To Ignore  (Hint: The tip is one single word.)

The Seven Deadly Short Story Sins  (at Paperback Writer)