Friday, July 30th, 2010

Writing Prompt: Fighting the Wind

Pelican by Kelly A. Harmon

I took a lot of photos while I was away…more than 500, actually. That’s the beauty (and the horror!) of owning a digital camera. Over the next few days I’ll be reviewing those for only the best and discarding the others. With a little luck, I’ll reduce them to a hundred or less.

One of my favorite vacation pics is of these pelicans.

On the seashore, the wind never quit. There were days we couldn’t open the umbrellas for fear of seeing them launched. On those days, the pelicans (and other seabirds) had trouble flying.

Because of the wind, they couldn’t spend time doing what it is they normally do: soaring over the ocean looking for food and diving in after it. Instead, they flew over the beach houses, quite low, in fact, looking for a means to get back to sea.

On more than one occasion, the birds barely missed flying under the covered porch I sat on, hence the up close and personal pelican pics.

Poor birds! They went days without getting a meal.

Here’s your prompt: Write a story about someone unable to accomplish a goal due to something as innocuous as the wind. Make sure the stakes are high: these pelicans couldn’t eat for days because the wind kept them ashore. Choose something equally important to your main character. What actions does your protagonist take to try to circumvent the problem? How does he feel about being thwarted by something inanimate? Is he angry? Frustrated? Both? How is the problem finally resolved? In order to have a satisfying ending, make certain it’s your protagonist who finds a solution to his dilemma (and not that the problem goes away on its own).

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Review Posted, Review Received

I’m back from vacation and already back into the swing of things. (sigh)

I love being at the beach, and I’m already missing it. To me, there’s nothing grander than sitting on the porch overlooking the ocean and hearing the waves roar and crash. It’s a nice background to writing.

While I was gone, my review of Stays Crunchy in Milk by Adam P. Knave was posted over at SF Reader Reviews. I loved the idea of this cereal box story, chock-full of 1980’s pop-culture references, and looked forward to reading it. But the execution fell flat for me. A child of the 80s who spent the majority of his existence in front of the TV or playing popular video games may enjoy it.

— and —

I posted a short time ago that Anna Marie Catoir mentioned on her blog (Anna Marie’s Corner) that Blood Soup was on her wish list. Since reading and reviewing is what Anna Marie does, I had no problem sending her a review copy.

And guess what? She loved it.

Anna Marie’s review begins with a quote from Blood Soup:

“…he found the literature could sometimes take his mind off the pain.”

She writes:

“Now there is a true statement. You can always find them in good fiction.

This was a short novella of my favorite sort. I couldn’t see the conclusion from the opening, there was recompense paid at that end, and just enough open-endedness to let the imagination fly.

This novella covers a lot a time, but never feels fractured or too compressed. It also feels like it belongs to a different time. I don’t mean it’s the historical setting. Harmon’s story feels like it belongs to the myth and legend class of stories or maybe just a scary tale told in the dark. I loved its dramatic feel (in the theatrical sense).”
What a great feeling! Not only did she rate Blood Soup 4 out of 5 but she called it “good fiction.”

Read the complete review here.

What a way to make my day. Thanks, Anna Marie!

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Writing Prompt: What’s In a Name?

I chose the Dean Koontz novel, Intensity, for my beach reading today. I’m a big fan of Koontz, having been introduced to him by my mom when I was eleven or twelve. She’d picked up Whispers and we both fought over it one summer…one of us grabbing it to read a chapter if the other layed it down for even a minute.

Intensity was published in 1995, but for whatever reason, I never got around to reading it. It’s more violent than I would have given Koontz credit for, but still written in his same brilliant voice.

I’m nearly a hundred pages in, and the villian Edgler Foreman Vess is thinking about all the “powerful” words he can make out of the letters of his name. He comes up with God, fear, demon, save, rage, anger, dragon and a slew of others. According to Vess, these, along with some mystical words (dream, vessel, lore, forever) seem to embody the type of man he is.

Of course, the character, Vess, and his name are a creation of Koontz. I’d guess Koontz chose the mystical, powerful words first and then re-arranged them to find Vess’s name.

But what about your name? What kind of mystical, powerful — or other — words are in your name?

In just a few moments, I came up with several in mine:

harm hear more melon
hark lore roam harmony
key re loam rely
lye rye lemon mar
money yell kaon alarm
lay helm realm Rome
moan moral lone mare


(There’s nothing more powerful than a lone melon, eh?).

Here’s your prompt: Find a clean sheet of paper and write your name across the top. Use your middle initial, or your complete middle name for this exercise. Your choice. Set a timer for ten minutes and see what kind of words are hidden in your own name. Don’t worry if you come up with proper nouns…this isn’t one of those games that disqualifies them. All real words count…even two-letter ones, though I doubt you could come up with any powerful two letter words. (Go ahead, I dare you to prove me wrong.)

If you want, classify the words when you’re done. Do you “own” some power words, or some mystical ones? Maybe yours are funny or soulful. Choose five words from your list and write about yourself using those words.

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Guess Where I am?

Sandy Beach

I’m where the feds can’t find me. Okay – nothing so drastic as that.

But the sand is warm, the drinks are cold and the water is divine. My internet access is spotty, at best, so updates will be slim. (Sorry!)

The good news is: I edited well over a hundred pages of my WIP today…and still had a lot of fun.

Hoping you’re having a fabulous time, too…

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Writing Prompt – Earthquake!

My alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. Static, rather than rock-n-roll greeted my morning. Moments later, the bed began vibrating. The entire house shook, making a noise like heavy rain on the roof – only amplified a dozen times.

According to the US Geological Survey, an earthquake measuring 3.6 had struck the Potomac-Shenandoah Region.

The vibrations ceased about eight seconds later, and the morning silenced. I found it an exhilarating way to start the day!

Nifty, eh? Here’s a handy map:

Earthquake Map - USGS - 16 July 2010

I probably wouldn’t think so highly of this morning’s occurrence if it had rocked the house so much that all the glassware broke. It’s only the second earthquake I’ve experienced. Scoff all you want, westerners… earthquakes are rare on the East Coast.

According to USGS:

Earthquakes in Maryland and Northern Virginia are uncommon but not unprecedented. The earthquake on July 16th, 2010 occurred in a part of the Eastern Seaboard that is less seismically active than central Virginia, New England, and the area surrounding New York City… Earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, although less frequent than in the West, are typically felt over a much broader region. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast.

We were lucky. The quake was mild. Nothing broke. Just a bit of fun to liven the morning. But what if it hadn’t been?

Here’s your prompt:

Write about a single person or a few tight friends caught up in a natural disaster. It could be a landslide, a flood, an earthquake…anything. But stretch: pick a disaster uncommon to the area you live in. How did it start? Was your character the instigator? (That is, did someone throw a pebble that caused a landslide? Or toss a lit cigarette that caused a wildfire?) How do they feel about causing the situation? Do they even know they caused it? Are lives at stake? Or homes, schools and businesses? How does your character escape? What has he lost during the situation? What has he gained?

Make the stakes high in order to ramp up the tension, but don’t kill off your character. (That’s too easy.)

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

A Glut of Procrastinated Paper

Hi, my name is Kelly, and I have a filing problem.

Loaded Boxes Full of Papers

Actually, that’s not true. I don’t have filing issues. I can file if I absolutely have to.

Unfortunately, I always have more paper to file than I have time to do it in. And, I have other priorities…so when I get squeezed for time, filing is the last thing I want to do. After a while, the piles get so numerous I shove them into boxes.

See the crazy notes I leave for myself? The note on the left-most box says, “Writing To-Do: Immediately.” The note on the box beside it says, “To Do by December 31, 2009.” Um…yeah.

I took these photos in December, but the boxes had been sitting there months before that.

I have whittled it down to two boxes. But that’s only because I’ve had to paw through the boxes several times in the last few weeks and I made some executive decisions to throw a bunch of stuff in the trash (which is much easier than filing). But the fact is:

I just don’t want to do it.

Every once in a while, that attitude spills into my writing.

In Chapter 10 of my WIP, there’s a particularly badly-written scene with some unbelievable dialogue that needs to be reconstructed from scratch. It’s full of archaic language and I’d bet a few “as you know, Bobs.”

It’s going to take some time. And I don’t want to waste it…even knowing that the scene can be a hundred times better.

I’ve procrastinated so long that I’ve already edited through Chapter 21. Imagine how anti-climatic it’ll be to get to “The End” and have to go back and edit something halfway through the book. I’m not looking forward to it. When I type “The End,” I want it to be the end.

So…I’m going to take care of it. Within the week.

Maybe after I tackle that scene, I’ll get up the gumption to finally get those boxes out of my office.

Won’t you join me? What have you been procrastinating about? If there’s nothing in your way…take care of it!

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Writing Prompt – Winning the Lottery

Scratch Off Lottery TicketI received a lottery scratch-off card as a gift a while back. Several, actually…and I won!

Two bucks.

Not a big deal, but two bucks is enough for an icy Diet Coke and a York Peppermint Patty…my favorite snack combo in the world.

Winning got me thinking about actually winning the lottery. A big prize, say, $10 million. What would I do?

First things first: I’d pay off the mortgage and then invest some funds in a nice safe place for my retirement. I’d probably fix a few things on the house: roof, front walk, etc. After that, I’d share.

I’d offer to fund some college educations for the kiddos in the family, and split the rest with my siblings, parents and in-laws. Why not? I can’t spend it all, really…

Here’s Your Prompt: Write about someone who wins the lottery. Is it you? Is it a family member? How much did he, she or you, win? Did the amount affect how that person acts? Did he quit his job? Money does funny things to people…how do friends or family members of the lottery winner act? Do they beg for money? Ask for a loan? What kind of suggestions do they make for spending the cash? Are there arguments over the cash? Maybe the winner bought the ticket with borrowed funds…in that case, who do the winnings actually belong to? Maybe there’s joy over the winning…does the cash come at an opportune time?

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I’m Wanted! And Other Bits of Newsy News

Uncle Sam - I Want You PosterOh, boy!

I was tickled to wander over to Anna Marie Catoir’s blog and find myself “wanted!”

After reading the review for Blood Soup over at Kay’s Dead Book Darling blog, Anna Marie wanted to read it, too.

Wow! That kind of stuff just makes my day.

(Kay gave Blood Soup a “Great!” rating, by the way. You should check it out.)

But before you wander off to Kay’s blog to read the review, check out the masks Anna Marie makes and showcases on her blog. They’re fabulous. My favorites are the The Brown Man and Blue Lips.

In other newsy news, I sold my story Sky Lit Bargains, to the Drollerie Press anthology, Hellbore and Rue.

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Of Me, Advice for Writers and Pajamas…

I’m flattered that Annette Bowman from the blog The Stars are Not Made of Fire was interested enough to ask me a few questions about me, my writing process, and advice for beginners.

I find Annette to be a fascinating person who likes to live in her pajamas — since they’re the most comfortable clothes in the world. (Of course!) I heartily agree, and if I could, I’d spend my days in pajamas just like Annette. Alas, the working world frowns on this.

PJs not withstanding, Annette’s blog is an interesting read. Visit just for that, even if you’re not interested in hearing me blather on.

On the other hand, if you’d like to read the interview, please visit Annette’s blog for the scoop.

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

American FlagHappy Independence Day!

As I mentioned Friday, this is one of my favorite holidays. Not only do I get to gorge on hot dogs and corn on the cob, I’m reminded — as I try to remember daily — what freedoms I have as an American.

I’ve been watching quite a bit of the history channel this weekend, learning things about American History they never taught me in high school. Things kids should know. Really.

This is the first year in a long time – perhaps a decade – when I’m at home. I have no plans…except to eat those hot dogs and prop my feet up. Maybe watch a bit more of the history channel. (I’m looking forward to staying away from the crowds.)

Wishing you a fantastic day, whether you’re celebrating or not!

As always, I thank all the men and women serving in the armed forces currently, and in the past.