Thursday, December 15, 2011

10 Reasons You Should Choose Llamas Over Horses

Are you writing a fantasy novel?  Do you find yourself tired of writing the same old animals?  Are you fed up with horses, who do nothing but carry people, pull carts and demand attention?  Do you ever wonder if there’s an animal out there that can do more, without being so elitist?
Well there is!  Introducing

THE LLAMA!!!!!!!

Llama are large animals perfectly suited for all of your questing needs!*  Llamas have uses in the industries of transportation, farming, clothing, fire-building, tanning and food production.
1.       Does your quest take you to the highest reaches of the Forbidden Mountains? Llamas can travel at high altitudes without getting winded, higher altitudes than lowland animals like horses.

2.       Crossing the barren plains?  Llamas don’t need to stop for water when traveling.  It’s enough for them to drink at the end of the day.  Unless, of course, there is no water, in which case they can get moisture from green plants like shrubs and lichen.

3.       Rocky terrain?  A llama can pick their way over rocky terrain more easily than horses.

4.       Heavy equipment?  Llamas can carry 25-30% of their body weight (130 lbs).

5.       No firewood?  Llama dung can be burned in fires.  They even conveniently poop in the same place every day.

6.       Change of wardrobe?  Llama hair can be spun and woven.  Their outer hair is used for ropes and rugs and their undercoat can be used for clothes.

7.       Need some personality?  Llama’s let you know when it’s time to take a break, or you’re asking them to carry too much.  And like their cousin the camel, the llama spits.   But only with each other (usually).

8.       Are a you a shepherd who needs someone to look after your flock while you go questing?  Llamas can be used as guard animals.  (This is a relatively new discovery.)  They will adopt the sheep as their own heard and scare off coyotes and other predators by spitting, stomping and running towards them aggressively.

9.       Need a long term questing companion?  Llamas live 20-25 years.

10.   Want more llamas now?  Female llamas don’t go into heat; they can breed anytime.  Just stick to llamas in a pen, put on some Barry White and in little less than a year you’ll have a baby llama!

Stop wasting time and get your own llama, today!

*This is not a guarantee.  Please note that llamas cannot carry adult humans, only small children.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


The research for my new book has lead me first to pre-Columbian civilizations of South America, meaning civilizations that existed before 1492, like the Maya, Aztecs and the Inca.  (Remember those from elementary school?)  My first stop on the tour is llamas.

We've been waiting for you, Meg.

Llamas.  Somehow, I always knew it’d end like this.
You see, in 1st grade my class went on a field trip to a local game farm to see the animals.  At that time I was afraid of cats and dogs and would cling to my mother’s leg whenever we were near them.  At the farm, the animals were behind fences, so I was all right.  I had a good time walking around with a small group from my class with my mom as chaperone.
Then we went into the petting area.

The petting area consisted of baby animals, who where smaller and couldn’t hurt us.  Their diet must have consisted entirely of handouts from school children because as soon as we went through the gate they crowded around us like zombies looking for brains.

I went berserk and jumped up on top of a bench, crying and screaming as the animals kept bleating at my feet.
I was a bit preoccupied to notice what specific animals were begging me for food,  but one of my classmates insists that it was a baby llama that did me in.  In high school we had French together and he ever learned how to say “llama” in French just so he could tease me and look like he was still working.
So I wasn’t surprised when I realized I’d have to be researching llamas for my book.  I knew we had unfinished business.

It turns out though, that llamas are pretty cool.  You can’t ride them but they’re a lot more hearty and agile than horses. They even hum.
That’s why next week I’m going to tell you 10 cool facts about llamas, and why you should choose them over horses when writing your next fantasy novel.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dear John

Dear Alex book,
Because my book is the closest thing
 I have to a relationship right now.
I want to start by saying that I still love you and I think you’re going to be an amazing book someday.  But right now, I think we need a break.
I know I said you were the one, but let’s face it, you’ve got some serious flaws.  I’ve written 15,000 words of you, twice, and your main character is still wandering throughout the narrative without a purpose.  Every draft there are some major character changes, the set hasn’t been painted yet and don’t even get me started on the plot.  I just think you need a little more time to stew on the back burner.
I’ll be honest; I found someone new.  We met about four years ago as I was reading HP 7.  We kept in touch a little, but last week, when I saw my priest sitting in his chair like he was lording over a mead hall, I don’t know.  Something magical happened.  Now we have a plot, a map, great setting, interesting people, a main character with a purpose.  Even a romantic subplot and a theme.  I really feel like this is something special.
So I’m sorry this is goodbye for now, but I truly think this will be good for us.  We’ll both come back in a few years, ready to give it a fresh start.
Best of luck,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Writing Religiously: Retiring a Dream

For the longest time it was my dream to have my first novel Untold published. After spending years searching for a publisher in vain, I decided to take matters into my own hands and self-publish. I’m not against self publishing . . . especially when it involves oddball genres. Self publishing was a mistake for this book, though. I worked with a company that promised the stars, delivered next to nothing, and took a large chunk of money from me in the process. Some editing was done on the book, but in truth I was such a young author back then that the story really needed a good overhaul.

And then there was the yearly sucker-tax maintenance fee. I had to pay $50 a year to make sure my book was still in print. Untold has never made more than $50 a year except the first year where I think I made about $275 . . . which didn’t even put a dent in the fees I paid to get the thing published in the first place.

I’ve paid the fee for the past two years mostly out of my desire to have the book still in print for the two to six people who purchase the book every year.

Now it is time for Untold to retire, though. Maybe I’ll re-write the work someday . . . or maybe I’ll just finish the audio drama based in the same world and then let these characters go for good. I don’t know. But I do know that it is time to put this dream to rest.

The last remnants can be ordered here

And so I leave you with the saddest word in the English language: Ephemeral.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Movie Version: John Carter

The first trailer for John Carter, the movie version of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Princess of Mars.

Features 99% more clothes than the book!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Writing Religiously: Clash with the Editor

I just wrote something that I think is absolutely brilliant. It’s one of the best stories I’ve ever produced. I sent it in to be considered for publication in a short story compilation. While I admit that there’s a few unpolished areas in the story, the changes the editor wants to make are extensive, and in my humble (but correct) opinion, they would change the whole thrust of the story in significant ways.

My intent here isn’t to belittle the editor. I have high regard for him. The struggle is, however, a very real one in the world of creative endeavors.

So I’m at a decision point: Do I make all the changes to get published (and undermine the thrust of the story)? Or do I dig my heels in, leave the bulk of the story unchanged and take my story elsewhere if need be?

I think this is a real struggle every author will eventually face. For me, I think I’ll implement some of the suggested changes, dig my heels in about others and see what happens. At the end of the day though, if my name’s slapped on it, it’s got to be something I’m proud of.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Love to hear the shepherd go tweet tweet tweet

From a conversation with my friend (I'll call her Polly), who's old enough to be my grandma:

Polly: 'The Pope tweets'!? Jeepers, give me a break!
Me: Well...everyone does nowadays.
Polly: Yeah, come on, get with the program, Polly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing Religiously: Publishing Opportunities

Writing Religiously: Publishing Opportunities

I wanted to let you all know about a publishing opportunity through a small publisher, Critical Press Media. Last year one of my short stories was published in their benefit book, The Least of These.

This year they’re trying to do two books. One will focus on the theme of “Miracles” and the other on a “Forerunner.”

The project doesn’t pay anything (except contributor copies), but it’s always nice to have your work published and in the hands of people who wouldn’t otherwise read your stuff!

So get to writing something awesome!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Working for the Batman every night and day

Real conversation from work:

Coworker: This looks like the kind of time clock Batman would have!

Me: *scoffs* Batman doesn't have a time clock. Although...he would have to because Robin's underage and can only work a certain number of hours per day.

Good news Robin! Now that school's out you can work a full 40 hour week!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sweet dreams aren't made of this

A few months ago I was having really weird dreams every night. That's what happens when you go from eating quasi-healthy food to eating soda, Cheetos, tater tots and frozen BBQ chicken.

All these crazy dreams got me thinking about how amazing our brains are that they can throw random things together and make a story. I used to wonder how my brain would throw me story ideas out of the blue as I was writing. I guess it does it all the time.

Here are some of the bizarro dreams I had.

• I dreamt I was driving my mother’s car into the driveway, but I drove into the back of my car. Then, my brother backed my dad’s car out of the garage, crashing into me.

• I dreamt my Hello Kitty’s seams were breaking and the stuffing was coming out. Every time I tried to hold a seam closed I found another breaking point.

• I dreamt I was at an engagement part for Danny Zuko and some girl, except she was mad because he and his friends weren’t there. I thought of course they aren’t, they don’t like you because they don’t think he should be marrying you. I didn’t think so either, but for some reason I was being really polite about it and not saying anything.

Maybe it was this chick.

• Something about the actress who played the aunt in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, except she was mean like in Fools Rush in

• They temporarily closed the movie theatre in my mall, except design wise it wasn’t my mall. But there was some fancy new three story store with swanky clothing I was checking out. Except there it was difficult to get to the right escalator. Also, there was another floor between the second and third floors, but I forget what was weird about it.

• I was in some church and this guy said he liked me playing the flute (which I don’t remember playing or having with me) and wanted to know if I would play for him and his wife for their anniversary weekend in Vermont. I would have liked to do it, also to be nice, but I said I couldn’t because I hardly played and didn’t have anything prepared and I would make a lot of mistakes and it wouldn’t sound good. His wife was really disappointed.

• I dreamt I was auditing 7th grade. I don’t remember why—like what I was hoping to learn. No one seemed to notice I wasn’t 12.

• I dreamt my friend got shot in the leg. Someone else was putting pressure on it, and then I took over. My friend’s a PA, so I made her look at it so she could tell me how bad it was. She was crying, but really brave.

• I dreamt that a bunch of people got together, even my neighbors, all in their bridesmaids and wedding dresses so we could see the different styles to choose from. I don’t know who was getting married—it wasn’t me.

• I dreamt I was in Australia, but everyone spoke Spanish.

• I dreamt a twelve year old who had a terminal illness invited me to join his band. I wasn’t sure why since I’m not a great singer.

• I dreamt I was at church and I chastised some junior high kids who were talking and making too much noise. I did the full on teacher talk, saying their behavior was unacceptable and disrespectful. Also one of their phones had gone off and the ring tone was “Evacuate the dance floor.”

• I don’t understand this one, but I think I was part of a resistance movement that just won our cause, but we were celebrating like we were at Gatsby’s house and there was a pool and some pillars and it was a summer night and my friend Katie was there, but I woke up before I made my way over to see her.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Writing Religiously: Sending Cards

About eight years ago I made the commitment, as a writer, to never again send any sort of cards with pre-written notes. I reasoned that a card would mean more if it contained my own words, instead of someone else’s.

Then life got busy.

So, while even though I no longer have the time to handwrite every card I send out, I think a simple message of “Congratulations, I’m proud of you” means more coming from my own pen, than all the pith and wit money can buy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Writing Religiously: Prayer for Musicians and Artists

After five years of full-time enrollment I have graduated from seminary.

I was also ordained this weekend.

I'm a little wiped, so instead of any of my usually rambling, today I will share with you a prayer I found in the The Book of Common Prayer. Glean whatever inspiration you can.

For Church Musicians and Artists

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: Armageddon Summer

Alas, the world didn’t end on Saturday. (Or maybe it did and I scheduled this post weeks ago o.0) But with all the end of days talk it seemed like a good time to review.

Armageddon Summer, by Bruce Coville and Jane Yolan.

Just the idea of these two YA greats writing together is awesome and the book doesn’t disappoint.

Mariana and Jed are two teens leading separate lives until their parents bring them together to spend the summer on Mount Weeupcut, awaiting the Apocalypse with the Believers, a Christian cult. Suffering, each of their parents finds solace and purpose at the church of Rev. Beelson, who preaches that this summer on July 27th the world is going to end. The only safe place from the Apocalypse will be the Mount, where 144 people can stay to wait out the impending doom and restart the world after it’s over. Both kids are reluctant to be there, but care about their parents. Together Mariana and Jed try to survive the summer and keep their families together. But when 144 is reached and more people want to break in or find their family members, can this story end without a tragedy?

This is a gripping read that keeps you on your toes. It also contains “understated pathos” when revealing how loss and tragedy affects people and families.

Another thing I love about this book is that those who believe in the apocalypse aren’t portrayed as cookie-cutter crazy. Though the impending apocalypse is seen as either unlikely or ridiculous, the Believers and Rev. Beelson are portrayed realistically as well-meaning and sympathetic characters. Any delight in the burning of the wicked sinners is seen through the narrators’ eyes as not keeping with Christian belief.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Writing Religiously: Harold Camping’s “Plan” for the End of the World*

So according to the leader of the theological cult “Family Radio”, the rapture is going to happen in a few short hours (May 21, 2011), then the world itself will end on October 21st of this year. Now, being a pastor and a man who is a mere week away from graduating seminary and being ordained I think old Gollum Harold is flat out wrong. But I do think he has a plan. So I’m posting this creative little piece today so that I can get a jump on the “rapture” that’s going to certainly happen latter today.

Here’s how I think Harold’s plan unfolded:

Prelude: While playing with my grandchildren, I discovered this really great hiding spot! No one would ever find me and a few hundred people if we hid here.

Phase #1: Begin telling my radio audience that I am working on a scam math formula that will predict from the Bible when the end of the world will take place.

Phase #2: Communicate to the suckers audience that I am very close, but need more money for research.

Phase #3: Announce the date of the “rapture,” and express my desire to the audience to warn the world about the coming judgment.

Phase #4: Ask for money.

Phase #5: Buy five or six inexpensive vans and a few billboards and tell the audience that their millions of dollars were sunk into these marketing tactics to get the word out.

Phase #6: Remind the audience that we did not spend millions for television ads because unlike the holy radio and blessed internet . . . television is evil . . . unless I’m making an appearance.

Phase #7: Round up my friends and family Gather with the faithful ones.

Phase #8: Hide in awesome spot mention in “Prelude.”

Phase #9: Make everyone think the rapture happened . . . and only a few hundred were saved.

Phase #10: Figure out a way to destroy the whole world by October 21st.

*I want to again reaffirm that I am not denigrating Christians here, but rather the theological cult that is known as “Family Radio” wherein Harold Camping has, on numerous occasions, told his listeners that the Church-age had come to an end, and that his listeners should leave the church and send in their money to “Family Radio.”

More on Fins

So the reason I was able to read Fins, by Ashley L Knight was because I won it in a contest. Remember the first time I talked about mermaids? And there was a contest? Totally won it. I feel a little proud about that, which is silly since I didn’t do anything.

Anyway, I was expecting to get just the book in the mail, but Ashley pulled out all the stops. The book came wrapped, with a envelope closed with an actual seal. How awesome is that? I was all set to heat up a knife to open it with, until I realized that it was my envelope, I wasn’t breaking into it, and so I could just tear the paper around the seal to keep it intact.

When I opened the envelope I found a lovely note in calligraphy. The book dedication was similarly done. I asked Ashley to make it out to my cousin Sarah, who loves books and who I’m going to give Fins to now that I’m finished.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fins, by Ashley L Knight

I told you—mermaids are the new vampires. Even Stephanie Meyer is supposedly writing a mermaid book. If you want to get ahead of the curve though, read

Fins is a fast-paced, fun, easy read about a 17-year-old girl named Morgan who goes to spend the summer with her mother. Turns out though, her mother is a mermaid and so is she. Morgan soon finds herself in the middle of a deadly family feud that’s been going on since before she was born. She’d better find a way to end it soon or someone she loves is going to die.

I always feel terrible comparing something to Twilight, but it’s almost impossible nowadays when dealing with paranormal romance. I’ll only say that if you enjoyed anything at all about Twilight you’ll like this book. However, Fins is tighter, has less gag-y romance and a strong female lead. Morgan doesn’t just sit around waiting for things to happen; she’s not going to rest until she’s sure her family’s safe.

The only criticism I would have is that I’d like more development. The story could be fleshed out a bit more, as seen in moments of exposition. There’s a lot of mystery and prophecy and it seems like you get told one fact only to find out ten pages later the opposite is true. A little more breathing room would solve this.

At the same time I don’t think the book’s target audience, teenagers, is going to mind that much. In fact I think this is a great book for reluctant readers.

My mother read the book before I did and she gives it two thumbs up. Quotes from my mother:

“A great book.” “I loved it.” “Do you have any more books like that one?”

She was also very pleased to know there’d be two more books after this one. The book mentioned that vampires also exist, so here’s hoping Morgan gets to stick it to some bloodsuckers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Writing Religiously: The To-Do List

Every single author I know has an extensive To-Do list. Whether published or unpublished, expert or novice all us writers have more ideas than we have time to record them. Here’s my current list:

1. Finish co-writing JPCA with Kevin D.
2. Write the next Untold Alliances audio drama
3. Finish writing The Shade novels.
4. Pursue A Simple Proposal film?
5. Rewrite Untold
6. Decide if I want to write Untold 2, 3, 4, 5 or conflate it into one or two more novels, or end it with the single book.

This list only represents the things which I might have an audience and/or a publisher for. If I listed all the ideas for stories, short films and projects swimming around in my head I’d fill a couple of pages.

So why do writers have an insurmountable list of projects? A list which will most certainly never be completed?

I think it’s so that only the good stuff gets through. The things we love get written. The things we only like get pushed to the bottom of the list, or incorporated into the stories and characters we truly love.

So make your list, envision all your projects as pet goats, and choose the ones that you wouldn’t mind sacrificing to the blood-thirsty god of mediocre ideas . . . and feed those that remain.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Yes, I sent this

Dear Sir or Madam:

This cover letter is to express my interest in becoming your temporary Junior Publishing Data Analyst at Marvel Comics.

My educational experience as an English major and previous career as an English teacher have provided me with excellent written and verbal communications skills. I currently exercise these skills on a volunteer basis as a copy editor for Living City Magazine.

Additionally, I have substantial experience working in fast-paced office environments. As a program assistant at SUNY New Paltz I coordinated with multiple departments in order to plan and run five three-day orientation programs for incoming freshmen. During one summer I assumed the office managing responsiblities for two month when the office secretary became ill. I am computer-savvy and easily able to learn new programs and tasks, am proficient in Microsoft office, and familiar with completing typical clerical tasks including filing, database management, program planning and answering phone queries.

I’ve always imagined that if I were a mutant my powers would involve filing and database management, which I would use to help Professor X run the X-Men as smoothly as possible. As your Junior Data Analyst I would easily input and update data as well as look for ways for my job to be done more efficiently. Anything I could to take some burden off the Fantastic Four’s shoulders during this trying time would be a privilege.

Thank you for your consideration.



Friday, May 6, 2011

A Day Late and a Dollar Short: Grammarrrrrrr...

My real-life job consists of editing things. I translate Legalese into plain English. Sometimes, the lawyers try to translate my finished edits back into Legalese. And my boss is getting sick of it.

My Captain!Boss has been having a hellish tug with the legal staff over their insistence upon ruining all her comprehensible English. Specifically, with the use of bullets. So she carved the following upon a stone tablet and sent it up to them, along with thunder and lightening and the promise of wrath:

Plain Language Rule # 5,369.7

We do NOT punctuate bullets. They do not have:

  • Commas

  • Semicolons

  • Periods
If you have a sentence that modifies a lengthy bullet, your choices are:

  • Put it in parentheses

  • Re-write the thought

  • See me

This rule applies to:

  • Doctors

  • Lawyers

  • Bureaucratic Chiefs

The Grammar Goddess

She then printed out copies of this most-high commandment and slapped it on my cubicle wall.

I'm thinking she's reached the end of her tether...

Also, a follow up to last week's post about the Pennsylvania teacher who was 'outed' as an erotica romance writer.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Writing Religiously: J-E-L-L-O

I'm not going to make a habit of this . . . but I find this video to be inspiring. (And transcendent).

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Day Late and a Dollar Short: The Birds & The Bees & The Books

Don't worry; this is work-safe. It's short and it's a rant, but it's work-safe.

There is a kerfuffle abroad in a small Pennsylvania town, about a local high-school teacher who's been outed as *GASP* a writer of racy romance novels!

This lady has been a teacher in this school district for 25 years. She has never talked about her alter-ego, never mentioned/used her books in class, and in fact seems to have kept her second job on the down-low as much as possible. So how did this come to the attention of local news media?

"Outraged" parents. Who ferreted out Mrs. Buranich's little secret on the Internet and then howled in virtuous outcry. Of course, they know nothing about racy romance novels; they don't read that sort of thing. But they can't have a woman who writes about SEX teaching their children how to write! OMG she must be a child molester! And/or obviously she'll teach them how to write about SEX! And the last thing they want is for their children to know about SEX!

People? Writing erotica =/= instant pedophile. That's not how it works.

Besides, if you have a teenager in an American public school, your kid probably knows more about doin' it at 17 than you do at 47.

And why on earth should an English teacher not have a sex life, or write erotic fantasies? She's not bringing any of that to the classroom. The only thing she's teaching is Shakespeare (which, let's face it, is perverted enough without the addition of drug-store romance passages).

If you're a parent, the first thing you should realize about your kids and sex is that THEY ARE GOING TO FIND OUT. Way, way sooner than you want them to. Wouldn't it be better for you to, y'know, TALK to them about it in a safe and responsible way? That way you can trust them to make responsible decisions, or at least have the satisfaction of knowing that if they do screw up, you did your best?

Pretending sex is an unnatural thing is one reason why so many young people have such messed up body images. And messed up ideas of how relationships are supposed to work.

So in conclusion: grow the hell up, people. Because you know what? The Song of Songs is hotter than any racy romance novel. And that's in the Bible.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Jersey Shore" gone Wilde

If you have not yet seen Jersey Shore quotes read in the style of Oscar Wilde, please, do so now. TV14

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writing Religiously: Royalty Checks

I wrote a science fiction book several years ago. Last week I received a royalty check for $5.52. It’s one of the largest checks yet!

A little despondent I showed it to one of my colleagues, who writes non-fiction. He said, “Keep writing, eventually all those little checks add up.”

My colleague only makes one, maybe two thousand dollars a year from his writing. He’s spent decades building his publishing base and he currently works hard in two careers . . . but the money he receives from publishers does help him get along.

Certainly most people do not write merely to make money, but it is nice to be compensated for the labor put into the work.

So, even though I most often write for free, I’m going to keep writing until the little checks start coming in. Then I’m going to write until those little checks start adding up.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Things I Learned from...Life

Back-up. Back-up, back-up, and back it up again.

I kept my computer backed-up in an external hard drive. I also kept a ton of pictures and videos in the same external hard drive. Then, one day, while it was sitting on the floor it tipped over and made a thud. Fourteen hundred dollars later, I have everything back.

Fortunately, Geek Squad City was able to retrieve just about all of my files. The ones that were messed up a little I was able to replace using my back-up files.

The moral is, back-up everything. The cloud is probably the best place to back up, because systems store the information on multiple servers, and they won't be stolen or broken easily. But that makes me paranoid, even if no one cares about my collection of Doctor Who pictures.

My novel I send to my e-mail after every day of writing. This way I will hopefully never have to do a Jo March.

Are you backed up? Which method have you chosen?
Here are some "bad" files that were recovered.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


*Spoiler alert for Suite Life on Deck movie, Page by Tamora Pierce*

The other day I was watching the Suite Life on Deck Movie (I love me some Disney Channel). It was near the end and our brave protagonist twin brothers are on the run from a hoard of mind controlled twins out to get them.

They come across a zip line which they're going to use to escape. Zack fends off the hoard with a metal pipe while his brother Cody sets them up to zip away to safety. As I'm watching I notice helmets as part of the zip line equipment and think "Dude, this is Disney. They're going to take time to put on helmets, aren't they, even thought the mob is nearly on top of them. Who would do that?"

Sure enough, Cody sticks a helmet on Zack's head, who says, "What? Why?"

"Zip line regulation," Cody replies.

And then I believe it.

You see, while most people may not think of safety when being chased by evil bad guys, the real question here is: Would Cody? And the answer is yes. He probably has zip line regulations memorized. This is a guy who irons his underwear, gets a monthly tetanus shot and, speaking of helmets, put one on his pet rat before he would let it run around in its wheel. Most people wouldn't put on that helmet, but Cody Martin would, and that makes the difference.

Also afraid of penguins.

When writing it's important to think carefully about what our characters would and wouldn't do in certain situations. If we contradict ourselves they become unbelievable. But if we pay close attention to who our characters are their actions will not only be believable, but will further the plot.

In Tamora Pierce's Page, for example, set in a magical, feudal world, Page Keladry is about to take the examination to become a Squire when she discovers her maid has been kidnapped and placed on top of a high tower. The smart thing to do might be to go get help, but that isn't fitting with Keladry's character. She likes to solve problems herself, doesn't like to complain, and doesn't want to be seen as weak when she's the only girl page. She also is such a caring person that she won't let her poor maid wait any longer than necessary to be rescued. She knows that she promised to protect her maid and she's going to fulfill that trust by being the one to rescue her, even if she misses the exam and has to repeat four years of page training. Keladry's character makes the entire climax of the book possible.

So as you're writing, take a closer look at your characters. Are their actions consistent? What kind of personality do they have? How can their response to situations make the plot more interesting?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Variations on a Theme...

If you've been to Barnes and Noble lately, you may have noticed that the YA section has an entire subsection devoted to "Teen Paranormal Romance." Not just teen books. Not just romance. Not just paranormal happenings. All three, together.

Of course, we know we have Twilight to thank for this, but I still find it oddly specific. Are there any oddly specific trends you've noticed? Here's another one I've found:

This is a great spring to propose to someone.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How I Learned... #8: About Procrastination

You'd think it would be easy to produce a single blog post on a subject vaguely relation to writing once-a-week. You'd think that.

I'm still trying to figure out how to manage it.

I don't suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. I have several friends who do have to live with ADD, and the work they do every day to focus and get important tasks done genuinely humbles me, because they have a much harder time of it than I do.

I suffer from things like a job where I spend most of my day writing and editing bland government copy. At the end of the day, my brain is so fried from all the sugar-coating and propaganda that it's hard to concentrate on the actual subject of writing.

I suffer from a disconnect between original writing and fanfic writing. Original writing, although it offers the most scope for my talents, always exists in that uneasy place between joy and labor. Fanfic is unmitigated love and squee; instead of doing horrid but thematically appropriate things to my long-suffering original characters, I can take someone else's characters and undo all the horrid but thematically-appropriate things that their actual creator did to them. It's therapeutic in the extreme.

I suffer from compulsions to eat and drink while I work. I suffer from an inability to write without background music, and a linked inability to sit still in the presence of music. I suffer from access to Netflix, to the Internet at large, to a DVD player, to the outside world.

In short: I have a lot of trouble ignoring outside stimuli.


I also suffer, I must say, from a compulsion towards honesty. And the truth is, I'm so used to putting off things, even things I enjoy doing, that it's hard to break myself of that habit. And I prefer to take so much time to mentally prepare myself to do something, important or not that by the time I've finally worked myself up to doing it, it's too late.


I'm trying, y'all.

Origin of my profile pic

The first time I met Abby* she was wearing her usual outfit--black pants, black shoes, black vest. A little dark for a junior high student, I thought. As I passed by her desk, in full teacher mode, I noticed her notebook, which was covered in anime pictures and kanji. In high school I was a huge anime fan. (My bedroom wall was literally covered with posters.) So I thought, here's something we have in common that I can use to connect to her.

"Rayearth?" I said, pointing to a pic on her notebook. "That's a good one. What's your favorite anime? I don't think I know these other characters." Abby's eyes lifted up from her work and glared at me. It was the stare of death. My attempt at connection had been officially deemed uncool. I backed away and decided to hold off on any subsequent conversation until I learned how many katanas she owned.

A few days later, however, I was writing on the board before class started when she came up to me and said, "Konichiwa." "Ohayo," I replied. "Though it's not really morning anymore..." "What?" she asked.

"Ohayo means good morning," I said, continuing to write on the board. "Let's see, I also know itadakimasu...arigato of course..."

"You speak Japanese?" she asked slowly. I turned and looked at her. Her eyes were wide and sparkling. I was an angel delivering manna from heaven.

"Well, I just know random words," I backtracked. "From watching anime. And the Internet. My best friend, now, she actually knows Japanese--"

"Can you write down those words you said?" she asked, whipping out a notebook and sticking it in my face. "Umm...sure." "What anime do you watch? Have you seen Death Note? That's my favorite. Those are the characters on my notebook, but I don't think my drawings are really good, I've got to practice more. And what do you think..."

Thus my connection with Abby began. I taught her some more Japanese words I'd picked up and she lent me Death Note and drew pictures for me, including my profile picture. Here's the full version: *Name changed. I picked Abby because she reminds me of Abby from NCIS.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Writing Religiously: Preaching Does Not Belong in a Story (unless it's a plot device . . .)

I'm a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand I fancy myself a speculative fiction writer. On the other, I'm a preacher. I don't know many people who do both effectively.

Stories work well because they implicitly communicate a timeless truth, and by doing so cause an emotional response from the audience.

Sermons work because they call for concrete, behavioral change. If they don't call for a change in behavior, they're not a sermon.*

As I navigate between these worlds I often see these two "laws" being violated on a regular basis. I watch movies that hammer their message so explicitly that I feel like I paid to hear propaganda. I also find myself listening to sermons that are filled with fascinating information, but I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to do with that information.

When a story delivers its message explicitly, it loses any possibility of delivering an emotional punch that might effect me after the story ends.

When a sermon delivers its message implicitly, I walk away asking "So what?" and continue living my life unchanged.

There are times where a story can have a line or two that explicitly states the "big idea" behind the movie . . . like in Batman Begins, “It's not who you are on the inside that defines you-- it's what you do." But any more than that cheapens the story.

There are times when a sermon should be implicit, but that concrete behavioral change needs to be delivered and understood by the entire audience.

So what books, or movies or sermons have you experienced lately that violate these "laws"? How do you respond to them? Do you stand up and cheer, or roll your eyes like me, even if you agree with the message?

*Like, "It is a wicked thing to not forgive when you have been forgiven so much," or "You should not find ultimate fulfillment in finances because God and others are more important," etc..

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Day Late and a Dollar Short: When lawyers write copy.

For once, I actually have a decent excuse for not posting on time! The answer, of course, is Minbari fanfic the quarterly report.

Once every three months, it is my esteemed duty to take myriad pieces of badly-expressed statistics and poorly-disguised propaganda and, by means of a Faustian pact with the nefarious regions of the netherworld and my all-mighty English degree, re-form these pitiful excuses for composition into a document glorifying labor and the department wherein I toil.

Then, as per departmental policy, it will be ripped from my hands, dressed in all the verbiage that I had liberated it from, tarted up like a two-penny whore, and sent to the Boss on High.

A civil servant's life is not an 'appy one.

It does, however, afford me an interesting glimpse into the minds of people not accustomed to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard for the purpose of composing the written word. Sometimes, the results are amusing, such as the sentence informing me that such an amount of money was "collected from violating employers." *pauses while you read that*

And sometimes the results are cringe-inducing, such as the passage explaining how domestic workers "appear and congregate" during the summer months.

Yes. "Appear and congregate." Like lemmings, apparently.

Thankfully I am the Wielder of the All-Mighty Red Pen, so that phrase got chucked, but I still have to wonder about people who refer to their customers like that in an official and public document.

And this is why we have a Communications department.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Writing Religiously: Finding the Story

I have always found songs that tell a story to be especially effective. I came across this song recently and fell in love with it. Then I read one of the YouTube comments and the story with in the song became all the more powerful: "The Widow is a true story, but when he says "Dead man" in the CD version, he means his dad was dead to him metaphorically. However, the day of this concert, his dad really did die and that's why he adds the part at the end. And that's why he's so emotional. After he played this song that night, he sat down on stage and just cried for a good 5 to 10 minutes."

Good stories arise from our experiences. If you have a particularly dark or painful area of your life . . . write about it! Just change the names to protect the guilty.

The best stories are the stories born from pain.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Origin of Alex Novel

Every month my friend writes a letter to her son (and now to her new daughter, also). She tells him what he's been doing, how he's growing and changing and how she feels about him. A sentence from one of these letter gave me the entire idea for my 3-book Alex story. Here it is:

I've become such a baby junkie that I can't even leave you alone anymore, because what if a goblin snatches you away when I am not looking?!

Yes. Three books from that. Ideas are everywhere, people.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day Late and a Dollar Short: Babylon 5

Seems like all of us here at Eventyr are running around frantically and *gasp* not writing.


I'm supposed to be working on a short scifi piece and a graphic novel script, but between personal and professional commitments, those haven't been happening.

However, I have been rewatching a lot of Babylon 5, so here, have a fanvid:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mad Busy

Work and other commitments are keeping me busy, so I'm just thowing together a short, random post for you.

1. Slang dictionary.

mad--(adj.) really

ashy--(adj.) dry; I need lotion! My hands are mad ashy!

brick-- (adj.) cold; Miss, it's mad brick in here!

brollick--(adj.) strong; George is the smart one and Lennie is mad brollick.

2. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost recreate Star Wars.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Writing Religiously: Co-Authorship

For the past few months a friend and I have been collaborating on a novella. I’m not sure what the best way to co-write a work of fiction is, but because the story is his brain-child I’m letting him have the final say on all edits.

I find the process enjoyable as we brainstorm character scenarios together, but challenging as I relinquish style-choices over to him.

This is an ongoing project and I’m sure I’ll be blogging about more faucets of co-authoring in the future, but for now I highly suggest authors find someone to collaborate with on a project. It doesn’t have to be long, a short story will work (are you reading this April?). If nothing else, I’m learning more about my own style as a writer in the process.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How I Learned... #7: To Loathe Writing Short Stories

Dear Internet: I have a confession to make.

I hate writing short stories. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I'm not all that fond of reading them either, to be honest, but it's the writing of them that drives me daft.

God knows I've tried, and managed it from time to time. I've even sold a few; I've got a short piece called "Under a Lady's Skirts" coming out in September 2011 from Aoife's Kiss. But they are the exception that proves the rule, which is that the first draft of any short story I attempt to write will inevitably be five or six thousand words over what the magazine is wiling to accept. Granted, I do believe that editing is good for the soul... but I've mortified my spirit by chopping down so many pieces that were striving to become novellas, I might has well have sackcloth under my skin.

I started a science-fiction piece called "Deep Places" over a year ago. It's not allowed to be any longer than seven thousand words. And I'm finding it insanely difficult. I've done four drafts so far; none of them have gotten beyond four thousand words—not because I've run out of story, but because the relatively simple, straight-forward plot I thought I'd had suddenly mushroomed into something quite different, something exciting and complicated. And now I can't get past four thousand words because I'm terrified this thing is going to explode into another vast work that I'm going to have to take a blowtorch to. It's gut-wrenching. Oh, I could just let it bubble and brew and become another novella or novel, but then I'd have another WIP on my harddrive—and still no short story!

The problem, at first glance, is merely the length. I've been doing this writing thing for almost fifteen years now, and brevity is something I've never been able to learn. I've never been able to write a complete beginning-middle-end piece coming in anywhere under the eight-thousand-word mark that is usually the ceiling for professional publishing venues.

A second reason, probably more likely, is the simple fact that I lack the ability to formulate a proper plot on its own, without taking all the characters into account. For me, the plot is not something external to the characters it affects; it is internal—it wells up from the characters. They bring their perils and their enemies with them.

There is no plot without characters. There is no understanding of a plot without a thorough understanding of the characters—their lives, their motives, their pasts and dreams. For the writer that I am, there can be no story at all unless I and the reader knows the characters intimately.

And that's damned hard to do in eight thousand words or less.

(Comic from

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