Thursday, December 31st, 2009
I just wanted to say, “Thank you.”
Thank you for stopping by and making comments, for following me on twitter, and reading the blog.
Thank you for the reviews, and coming out to see me at Balticon and Capclave.
Thank you for reading my book, and my short stories, and for telling me what you liked and what you didn’t.
Thanks for joining the conversation, and starting new ones.
Let’s do it again in 2010.
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
So i wandered over to Simon Haynes’ Hal Spacejock web site to see when the new book was coming out (2010) and decided to take The Exam.
I passed with flying colors…and the Gold Nut Award has been conferred upon me:
I love, love, love Hal Spacejock…and his sidekick robot, Clunk. (Well, I probably love Clunk more, truth be told.)
If you like dry, witty humor, it’s right up your alley. And you can read the first book for free over at Simon’s sight. Check it out…and then try the nuts test (as Simon calls it) yourself!
Saturday, December 26th, 2009
I took this photo on Christmas day.
I call it, “Overkill.” At least twenty-four blow-up decorations can be counted from this angle.
I love it, because it shows so much energy and excitement for the season. The exuberance behind it just makes me laugh. At the same time, I realize it’s just too much.
The theory can be applied to writing, especially journalistic writing. (Remember, “Just the facts, ma’am.” ?)
A news story answers only the whos, whats, when’s and wheres. Follow-up news stories might contain the hows. If it’s more in depth, the whys might be explored.
Whatever you do, don’t offer your own opinion or theory (although you might quote someone else’s) and don’t resort to language greater than one-syllable words unless the word you’re using has no alternative.
In other words, use “red” and not “vermillion”. Do use the word cytosol instead of saying, “that jelly-like substance between cells.”
More on how to write a news story in another post.
There’s plenty of overkill in fiction, too. It’s best to “kill your darlings” if you find yourself writing too much.
Spare, elegant writing is usually better than ornate, dazzling words. When I see writing like that, all I can think is that the writer cared more about showing off his knowledge (“Look at how many big words I know!”) than about telling a good story.
I find in my own writing it’s the prose that seemed to flow so freely — when it feels like my muse is sitting on my shoulder and whispering the words right into my brain — that I’ve got to review it for probable “overwriting.”
I’m getting good at not allowing it to appear on the page at all, but sometimes it sneaks in. New writers are especially fond of overwriting…especially if they are aspiring literary artists.
Here’s an example. Start with a perfectly good sentence:
Jane walked through the park, pushing the stroller.
But what about the park? We haven’t really described it in any detail…
Jane walked through the 250-acre, half-wooded park, past the duck pond where children and old men alike paused to throw breadcrumbs, where July sunshine beamed down on the water bouncing light around, pushing the stroller.
It’s getting there, (if a bit awkward) but we don’t know anything about the situation from Jane’s point of view, do we? This sentence is about her, after all. Her and the baby, right? Let’s put some emotion into it. And when you’re done, you’ve got a fantastically overwritten sentence.
Jane happily walked through the 250-acre, half-wooded park, past the duck pond where children and old men alike paused to throw breadcrumbs, where July sunshine beamed down on the water bouncing light around, pushing the stroller containing a smiling, gurgling infant.
There’s a lot of rich detail in the final product, but it’s hard to determine who the sentence is about. Is it about Jane and the baby? Or is it about the old men and children feeding the ducks at the pond? Worse, could it be about the park?
All the extraneous clauses, adverbs and adjectives conceal the point of the original sentence.
Don’t feel like you’ve got to pack every bit of detail into a single sentence. If you want to say more, write another sentence. But beware, sentences in a paragraph can be just as cluttering as words and clauses in a single sentence.
When in doubt, leave it out. 😉
Friday, December 25th, 2009
I hope Santa brought everyone everything they wanted!
My Christmas wishes have been granted: my family is here, we’re all safe and healthy, and there is snow all over the place–left over from last week’s storm. (So, while we’re having a white Christmas, we’re not dealing with any new stuff on the roads.)
The only thing that could have made it better, were if I were not still wrapping this morning!
Merry, merry, everyone!
Saturday, December 19th, 2009
The snow started last night around 10:30 p.m. We’ve got more than a foot of snow piled up, according to the gauge on the deck…and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.
Wind is blowing the snow off the deck rails (causing poor visibility so evident in the first photo), so judging the depth of snowfall from there is deceptive. It wouldn’t surprise me if we got the “possibly 18 inches” the weather-folk were predicting for our area.
It’s cold outside, so the snow is dry. Not good for snowmen. (Alas. I was really looking forward to building a snow family!)
I took this photo from a protected location. No snow-blow on the lense, so the photo is better…unfortunately, it doesn’t give an accurate depiction of the weather conditions.
Thursday, December 17th, 2009
Or, How to Write Copy Like a Trained Journalist – Part 1
I spent a lot of years working as a reporter. I find writing like a reporter is perfect for writing for the Web, and in most instances, can help to bring your fiction alive as well.
Journalistic writing is characterized by spare prose (“just the facts”), with the most important information at the beginning of the piece. There are other rules, usually found in a style guide (more on that in another post), which characterizes other parts of the writing.
One facet of journalistic writing is to avoid cliches.
A cliche is a phrase or an expression that has become overly familiar through use. Two cliches should be evident in the following sentence:
The car barreled down the road at breakneck speed.
Which of the following cliches haven’t you heard?
- a note of warning
- beat a hasty retreat
- black as night
- cool as a cucumber
- dazed and confused
- flood of tears
- green as grass
- hard as nails
- in the nick of time
- made ends meet
- very much in evidence
(My original list was much longer…but it just looked silly on the page… I think you get the point.)
Cliches should never be used in a news or feature story (or fiction!), no matter how great the temptation–and temptation will beckon. (Trust me on this…it’s so much easier to write the cliche than to think up something new!)
And, there’s a reason why cliches are so popular: they’re familiar and easily understood by an audience. They bubble to the top of your thoughts when you’re considering what to write. And if you’re facing a deadline, it’s easy to rely on tired phrases to get your point across, rather than write fresh copy.
It’s much harder (not to mention more time consuming) to think up something new (especially if you’re like me. I like to dither over phrases and make them “perfect” before moving on.) But the use of cliche represents poor use of language, and in some cases, can identify the author as either inexperienced or, worse, lazy.
Appearing lazy can lose you commissions.
The problem with cliches is they make all stories sound the same:
The robbers terrorized their victims and made their escape on foot, fleeing with the loot.
So, the rule is: avoid cliches like the plague.
When writing fiction, don’t let your characters resort to cliched thought. Avoiding trite phrases will allow their personalities to develop. (And you may find that you learn more about your characters themselves if you have to work hard to make them think on their own, rather than relying on tried and true expressions to get their points across.)
When writing Web copy, keep your thoughts fresh and your words crackling. Cliches allow your reader to skim the writing, but if you use new language, your readers will actually have to think about what you write.
Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
The shiny Kindle™ version of my story, “The Dragon’s Clause” is now up and running at Amazon!
Amazon is telling me that it’s “still in the publishing phase” according to my account. Yet, there’s a purchase link!
Go see it here, and then come back and tell me how nifty it looks up on the Amazon Web site. 🙂
Monday, December 7th, 2009
I’m remembering history today, as the attack occurred decades before I was born. I can only imagine the anguish it caused– and the sheer pissed-offed-ness — that this kind of attack engenders…
Thank you, WWII Veterans. Thank you, service men and women of today.
Saturday, December 5th, 2009
I spent a few hours at the Greenbelt Festival of Lights, Arts and Craft Fair today with fellow members of the Maryland Writers Association. We sold some books, chatted with lots of people and (I think) had a good time.
I know I did.
If you’re in the area, and have some time, you might want to stop in…I could have spent some serious cash on pottery, jewelry and books – in the “Humanities” room – which is where we were, along with the Greenbelt Writers Association.
(I did buy a necklace from Jellybug Artworks. VERY KEWL. Lots of black and white bead-shaped stones whose names escape me along with a hematite pendant. You’ll probably see me wearing it at my next reading….)
The big thrill of the day was snow. We watched it turn from flakes to sleet and back to snow again in the large classroom windows of the Greenbelt Community Center.
In my neck of the woods, the weatherman was calling for “1.8” inches of snow. I laughed about this all morning. Most days, the weather-folk can’t accurately predict whether it will be rainy or clear – but today they knew were were going to get 1.8 inches. Ha.
They were partially right. I have about 8 inches of snow on my deck….(which means we probably got at least six – it tends to collect a bit more deeply on the rails…)
First snow of the season always takes my breath away…especially when it’s such a good one. I played kid again this afternoon: had a snowball fight, built a snowman (snowwoman, actually) and went sledding.
Between that, and the hour-plus drive in the snowfall on the way home…I’m done in. Nighty-night.
Friday, December 4th, 2009
Look at this beautiful cover art by Crystalwizard! Isn’t it fabulous?
I think she did a terrific job of portraying my dragon, Salga di Alato (he’s an Italian Dragon) fire-strafing one of the three towers of San Marino.
This cover art is for my short story, “The Dragon’s Clause,” which I’m re-issuing for Amazon kindle.
(I can’t wait!)
“The Dragon’s Clause” was originally published in the anthology, “Black Dragon, White Dragon,” by Ricasso Press under the name, “San Marino and the Dragon.”
San Marino and the Dragon received a lot of good press. If you’re interested in the reviews, check out this page.
If you enjoy stories about dragons, look into “Black Dragon, White Dragon,” available electronically and in print at Ricasso Press or from Amazon.com (print only).
If you want to read my story, but not purchase the entire collection, you’ll soon get your chance.
You can see more of Crystalwizard’s art at her ArtWanted site.
I’ll let you know when “The Dragon’s Clause” becomes available….in the meantime, why don’t you tell me what you think of the art?