Blog Archives

Thinking Up the Future

Wow. Posting every week? Look at me! Wonder how long I can keep this up. Anyway. The topic today, kids, is predicting the future.

crystal ball

No, not like that. I mean actually, scientifically, with reason and logic.

Last night, Big Bopper and I went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen. Now, the last time I saw this movie I was ten years old. Yes, I saw it in its original release in 1968. And what I remembered was SCARY KILLER MONKEYS! FUTURISTIC SPACE TRAVEL! PSYCHOPATH COMPUTER! And also, my mother and aunt sitting with their mouths open in disbelief as the house lights came up after the show. (“Was that a fetus? Floating in space?”)

Some of the assumptions the director made about the future were spot-on—using credit cards instead of cash-money, flexible space suits, video phone calls—but most of the predictions of how Things Will Be in 2001 are laughable.

For instance, in 2001 all the superpowers will have moon bases where we can continue to carry on the Cold War. Also, furniture design remains frozen in time with Eames chairs. And to transfer information between computers, you need a punch card.

IBM_Punch_Card

The point I’m making is this: The roots of the future are in the present, but if you’re a writer, you have to look beyond the obvious.

The USSR economy was unsustainable. It took decades to fall apart, but its ultimate demise was predictable, if you knew how to look at it. The integrated circuit, which would become the microchip of today, was invented in 1959. At the time, almost no one understood the implications. But now, microchips power everything from toilets to cars.

So if you’re writing science fiction or science fantasy, read science news. World politics. Business.

And let your mind wander.

Homer-Simpson-Zoned-Out

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Character Comforts

It’s funny, what comforts a person.

For instance, Big Bopper loves napping on the couch to the sounds of cartoons.

Bottled Lightning loves silence.

BoyWonder likes to sit around the dining room table with his family and talk, after a big meal.

Freckles McYoungest loves a stormy afternoon, curled up with a book.

I like wind…

An unremitting sea breeze on the beach.

warp-dogThe relentless gale that whips through a car speeding down the highway with all the windows down.

i always want to say "and my other brother daryl". anyone else do that?

i always want to say “and my other brother daryl”. anyone else do that?

An afternoon gust that cools the porch and blasts away the mosquitoes on a summer evening.

catfanA floor fan, pointed just right, that puffs up your t-shirt and makes tendrils of hair dance around your face.

I wonder if it’s because the first house I lived in, situated in a coastal town, had no air conditioning. But every room had windows designed to catch a cross-breeze.

Or, could be I’m just weird.

As writers, though, it’s interesting to think about what would comfort the characters we invent. For instance, there are times that I get a whiff of stale oil and hot engine parts, and maybe a little pee, which reminds me of the Paris Metro. Would that be a comforting smell to someone raised there? Maybe a character loves raking leaves because it reminds him of New England and maple syrup and red flannel shirts—and home?

I dunno. I ponder these things, when I write characters.

Hope I’m not weird.

Outlining VS Pantsing, Again

I once heard a talk by a lovely Kansas SCBWI member—whose name I wish I could remember—about Walter Dean Myer’s process. It involved lengthy and detailed outlines.

At that moment, I wondered if I’d ever be a good writer.

Trouble is, I didn’t want to give up the freedom of pantsing. The interesting discoveries you make when you just let ‘er rip.

I’m starting a new story and this time, I’m making the effort to get the bones in place, first. With the caveat that I’m still free to run wild and crazy when belching out my first draft.

Two memes for the price of one.

Two memes for the price of one.

I hope the extra time spent pre-loading the manuscript makes me write faster. And still gives me room for those Aha! moments.

mickey

Because that’s what makes it fun.

Not Writing Is Still Writing

There’s more to writing than–well, writing.

This weekend, our group of long-time writing friends is on retreat. (And no, I’m not mentioning it here on the blog to document that fact for the IRS. Though that’s a pretty good idea.)

Sure, I brought my laptop. But this is the first day I’ve fired it up–because I’ve spent the first 48 hours in our cozy cabin paradise, pondering.

I’ve spent time trying on character names, drawing maps, diagramming plot points. To dig down deep. Find the truth in my story.

Don’t get so set on word count goals and outlines that you forget to dream.

adorable puppies sleeping. you're welcome.

adorable puppies sleeping. you’re welcome.

My Writing Process in a Shell of a Nut

toddOne of the best things about having writerly friends, is celebrating with them when they cross the finish line.  One of my talented friends in such a position is LOUISE GALVESTON, author of By the Grace of Todd.

 

Louise tagged me in the #myworkprocess blog thinga-do. Here’s her post on her work and how she produces it, and below, mine.

 

 

A. What am I working on?

Currently, I’m revising a perky little YA manuscript that involves cellular memory, serial killing and sex. And also, bad words.  Although this story is quite dark, it’s a lot of fun for me. It’s set in my home state of Texas, and recreating the rhythm of Texan speech patterns, as well as idioms peculiar to the state, is like wrapping myself in a warm serape.

serape

B. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write books for guys that girls like to read too. If it’s a subject that’s usually discussed in whispers, I wave it like bunting on the Fourth of July. My stories are gritty and realistic, but always with a small twist that makes the world skew a bit toward the weird.

horse

 C. Why do I write what I do?

You’d have to ask my psychiatrist.

D. How does your writing process work?

I believe in vomiting out your first draft–just GET IT DOWN.  As I write,  characters’ names change,  the plot careens wildly and I might try on different tenses and  points of view. DOESN’T MATTER. Then, I choose which tense and point of view I like, and rewrite for plot and story elements. Then a third draft concentrating on character, setting and cleaning up plot holes. Then a last pass to clean up anything I missed. I. Am. Thorough.

demon

NEXT WEEK, MAY 5TH (may already) GO SEE MY PALS’ POSTS ON THIS VERY SUBJECT:

Heather Trent Beers’ blog, I’M JUST SAYIN’:

Heather is my adorable friend who writes articles for magazines and periodicals, local and national, for kids and parents. She also writes charming picture books, as well as edits for cash money. We like to travel together under aliases.   http://heathertrentbeers.blogspot.com/

Tessa Elwood’s blog, INK & ANGST:

Tessa is my cool friend who writes YA novels and designs websites and also is a photographer extraordinaire. This gal’s got her fingers in so many pies *CORN ALERT CORN ALERT* we call her Marie Callendar. She also lets me post on her blog sometimes. Is that a pal, or what? http://inkandangst.com/

Heather Ayris Burnell’s blog, FROLICKING THROUGH CYBERSPACE:

Heather is my cyberfriend. We met on Twitter and have yet to coordinate a meeting IRL. BUT I HAVE FAITH. She’s lives on a mountain and raises things–crops, critters and kids. And writes picture books, as well as a YA here and there. I love her madly, and am so curious to get together in person so I can hear her voice. I imagine it is smooth as a lamb’s ear and fresh as goat’s milk.  http://frolickingthroughcyberspace.blogspot.com/

 

KOWS: Keep On Writing, Silly

You may have noticed my absence from social media for the past several months.

invisible smoker

 

Or maybe you haven’t.

Anyhoo.

I’ve been madly revising my current manuscript to the detriment of all other aspects of my life.  Especially housework. Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me to give up on housework.

But Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, this blog, the other blog, Sub It Club…etc., etc.  Regretfully, they have been mostly on hiatus while I finish my WIP.

So I would like to offer this situation as a shining example of the role of Social Media in a writer’s career. It is incredibly important, but all things stem from THE WRITING.

When necessary, we should be willing to let all other things go to hell in a handbasket.

 

cat in a handbasket

 

Oh, were you looking for cows?

 

 

 

 

not another writer’s new year resolutions post

Geez Louise, I despise New Year’s resolutions. I never keep them, and don’t even remember what I resolved past January 3rd. Usually, along about October I find the notebook I was supposed to write in every morning, stuffed under the car seat or kicked under the washing machine.

Then I despair.

no more writer resolutions

Not this year, bucko!

Happy_dance

I don’t want to generate failure anymore. No more promises to work on habits and goals that I don’t really want, no matter how many Good Writers recommend them. Instead, whatever interests me, I’m just gonna do it.

And when it doesn’t float my boat anymore, I will stop.

Maybe I’ll end up making the same changes in my life that a New Year’s Resolver does, but I won’t feel like I’m being punished, and I sure won’t feel guilty if my self-improvement ideas don’t work out.

approved

WRITERS’ BOOT CAMP: COME SEE MY BLUE HAIR.

PEOPLE OF EARTH.

There is something extremely nifty going on in Omaha on Saturday, September 7th, 2013. Not only can you see my blue hair, you can learn a thing or two.

Jenn Bailey and I will be running a Writers’ Boot Camp for SCBWI-NEBRASKA.

Jenn starts the day with Scrivener 101. You’ll see how to storyboard, organize research, revise using keywords, and a lot more. Imagine being able to pull up all of your main character’s dialogue at once to see if his speech pattern remains the same. Track a secondary plot thread. Check your research–videos, pdfs, sound files–right in your Scrivener program. Save time and write a tighter, multi-layered manuscript.

Next, Twitter Tune-up.  Learn how to connect with agents, editors and other writers, or movers and shakers in any industry. Where and how to join a chat. And find out how to hashtag, MT and RT with the best of them. We’ll demystify the lingo and let you in on the etiquette of successful Tweeting.

Last of all…face it. You know you need a website. If you’re like me, html and CSS might as well be Aramaic. But there’s a way for anyone to put together a beautiful website, with or without a blog. I will hold your hand and take you step-by-step through the WordPress Workout. We will set up a site together, so you can see exactly how themes, headers, titles, widgets, pages and blogging work. We’ll talk about the dreaded SEO and how to get recognized by Google. You’ll leave with your very own site, ready for your personalization.

Everyone’s invited, whether children’s writer, adult writer, business person, student or teacher. Anyone who wants a bit of web presence or must produce documents should come.

Also, Jenn and I are a ton of fun.

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Don’t let the crowns fool you.

REGISTER HERE:

http://www.scbwi.org/Regional-Chapters.aspx?R=16&sec=Conf

meet anola pickett and primmy, from whisper island, the outer banks, nc

It’s always a thrill when someone you know publishes a book–a double thrill when it’s someone in your critique group. I give you Anola Pickett, author of the new middle grade novel, Whisper Island.

Interesting where ideas come from, isn’t it?

Here, Anola tells us a bit about the Lifesaving Service:

So it’s quite a predicament for Primmy, the 12-year-old main character:

They say a writer tells the same story over and over in each novel, just with different characters. Anola’s characters are always plucky kids overcoming great obstacles. Makes for exciting reading!

Here, Anola talks about the conflict between Primmy and her mother, reflecting on a bigger picture, in my opinion:

One of Anola’s strengths as a writer is her attention to detail of setting. Here, she talks about research, and why Whisper Island is an important book for kids:


Here are a few of the fascinating details Anola found out about living on the Outer Banks in 1913:

What a pleasure to read an historical fiction written by someone so dedicated to authenticity! Like in Anola’s first book, Wasatch Summer:

And as one of her critique partners, I can tell you she’s researching diligently for the novel she’s writing on now:

When she’s done with that…will Primmy appear in a sequel?

But if you’re going to read the sequel, you’ve gotta read the first book. Here’s someone who might inspire you to do just that:

Where did her name come from?


Poor kid. I agree.

I’m so excited for Anola’s book, I’m giving away an autographed copy, with some Island gee-gaws, donated by Anola herself.

And lastly, I just have to squeeze this clip in. All published authors who have done the rounds will appreciate this audience question:

whisper

BUY ANOLA’S BOOK, WHISPER ISLAND TODAY.

But first…

Enter my blog contest for a free, signed and personalized copy. All you have to do is Tweet, Tumbl or Pin about Anola’s book, and leave a comment with the link to your handiwork. DEADLINE: MIDNIGHT CST, SUNDAY, AUGUST 4TH. The winner will be drawn from the proverbial hat and announced on Monday. Prize may or may not include the mermaid bookmark. OH JUST KIDDING.

stories of ghosts and us

I’ve been everywhere, man. (Cue music.)

Across the deserts bare, man.

geez. anybody got a power bar?

Breathed that mountain air, man.

IMG_3642

You get the idea.

One of the things we did last week, was go on a ghost tour in Old Town, in Albuquerque.

Now, there’s some fun.

Two guides and only seven people in the group. Excellent stories, videos, pictures, EVPs, (electric voice phenomena) and history lessons.

Yes, history lessons.

It occurred to me that really, the tour boiled down to one gigantic history lesson.

Because where does a ghost come from, but the past? Whether it’s 1998 or 1698, ghosts are reminders of what came before us.

When Great Aunt Melba rattles around in the attic, we communicate with our ancestors. Union soldiers at Shiloh allow us to affirm the continuity of our country.  Incan ghosts at Machu Picchu let us know that even if the glory of our civilization dies, we will not.

I’m thinking about writing a ghost story for my next novel. Of course, in order for a ghost story to be interesting it has to be more than haints floating around a dilapidated house. There has to be some sort of psychosis involved.

mocinha

I’m wondering if the more the main character connects with the ghost, the more frightening it is. The better the ghost can infiltrate his psyche, and therefore, the reader’s, the more the ghost can play him like a fiddle.

I mean, aren’t we all so OVER monsters?

82167

I dunno. Still puzzling this out. Tell me what you think.

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