Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Terrific Birthday Present!

Birthday CakeSo, today is my birthday.


(I promise I’m not making that “blogiversary = a birthday for the blog” mistake again.)

So…the gift?

Blood Soup is now available in the UK. You can see the UK Amazon page here.

Interesting to note that none of the customer reviews appear in the database. I guess they keep US/UK opinions separate.

To my UK friends who may be interested, here are the US reviews.

And that is all.

I’m going celebrate! (May the day’s festivities include chocolate, peppermint and a vodka martini…)

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Writing Prompt: Nature’s Calling

HummingbirdOne evening, eating dinner outside on the deck, my family and I were buzzed by a hummingbird. Apparently, we were invading his territory: all the flowers he likes to frequent on the deck.

I enjoyed his visit so much, I hung up a feeder.

Within days, I had more than one bird calling. And I’ve seen as many as four at a time vying for space.

I’m certain they must have all been in the neighborhood, just not visiting me at the same time. The feeder is acting a bit like a water cooler: a place where all the hummingbirds can hang out together.

Or so I thought.

The birds are fighting.

I know this because I hung the feeder in a location where I can see it from nearly any window on the back of the house. And while I’m home, I’ve been watching.

HummingbirdOne bird in particular, has been very territorial.

He chases off all the other birds when he’s around.

This morning, I watched them fight in the air, appearing to dance, or mate: swirling and turning, zooming high into the sky and then spiraling down, one bird always chasing the other.

Lately, the territorial bird has taken to sitting on the nail above the feeder, keeping watch for other birds. I’ve watched him watching.

His little head moves back and forth, almost as if he’s viewing a tennis match, but always alert for another hummer. He won’t allow them within even a few feet of the feeder. He attacks as soon as another hummingbird shows interest in drinking.

(Seems like craziness, if you ask me. There’s no way he’ll be able to consume everything in the feeder!)

Being able to watch these little guys has killed a lot of my preconceived notions about hummingbirds. I’m filled with awe. (And I know these creatures will soon play a role in one of my stories.)

Here’s your prompt: Step outside your door and admire nature. (Even if you live in the city, there’s got to be something you can observe: ants in the crack of the sidewalk, bees attracted to a flower box, squirrels in the park, etc.) Look for something that you’ve not paid attention to in the past. Observe until you notice something you didn’t know before. Now write about it. Write a vignette about what you’ve seen, including your observations. Use your new knowledge to flesh out the setting of a story you’re currently working on. Or, simply journal about it. If you journal, write how you feel about what you’ve learned.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Are You a Sadist?

Sadistic Knife BlockI had lunch with a good friend yesterday and she asked me about my novel WIP. I was going to give her my elevator pitch until I remembered she has a Masters in Literature.

So I started telling her about my protagonist who is upstanding, moral, and ethical – and who lives by a set of personal rules of honor that isolate him from others: he lacks a core group of friends and also lives apart from the main community.

He’s flawed of course, and much of the making of his rules stems from a troubled history. I won’t bore you with the details.

After I explained my protagonist, I told my friend all the things I did to him:

  • made him honor-bound to escort a group of women he abhors back to their home through dangerous territory
  • had him kill one of those women as he tries to help them
  • required him to obtain a drug that has been declared illegal (and didn’t tell him it’s illegal)
  • made him fight the militia – who inform him the drug is illegal – in order to escape and maintain possession of the drug
  • tricked him into promising to help a thief, who helps him flee the militia
  • had him declared an outlaw and put a price on his head

And this is only in the first three chapters!

As I sat there ticking off the ordeals I put him through, I was reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Creative Writing 101” rules, number six of which is:

Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

My main character holds himself apart from everyone else, and tends to think in black in white. By putting all these obstacles in his path — and making him do things he clearly doesn’t want to do — he learns that there are many shades of gray. He’s got to learn to loosen up his personal rules before he snaps.

It’s this learning process which makes the book interesting. And it’s the obstacles that make it so exciting – and so fun to write, too!

Is your story suffering from a lack of excitement? Is your character staid or boring? Be a sadist! Put your characters in interesting and dangerous situations. Make him work. Take away the easy: make all of his desires difficult to obtain.

All you writers out there: how have you been a sadist? What kinds of things have you made your characters do?

In case you’re interested, here is more information on Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules.