Friday, March 25th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Waffles and Waffling

Waffles with Eggs and BaconToday (March 25) is International Waffle Day.

According to Wikipedia, “Etymologists say the term [waffle] was derived from waff, a 17th-century onomatopoeia for the sound a barking dog makes, similar to the modern woof. Although the relationship between a dog’s bark and indecisiveness is unclear, the inference is that waffle words have about as much meaning as the noise made by a dog barking.”

Also, according to wikipedia, “a waffle is a batter- or dough-based cake cooked in a waffle iron patterned to give a distinctive and characteristic shape. There are many variations based on the type and shape of the iron and the recipe used.”

Thus, International Waffle Day can be celebrated by waffling on decisions or by consuming waffles. Your choice. (If you find yourself waffling on this decision, feel free to do both.)

True story: Once, I was traveling from Maryland to Georgia to meet some friends, and they gave me directions:

Get on Route 95 south.
Waffle House.
Waffle House.
Waffle House.
You’re there.

Such is the greatness of waffles.

Here’s Your Prompt: (Your Choice. If you’re waffling, do both.)

1 – Write about indecision. Tell a story about a person who must make a tough decision. The decision must be of such import that the choice of one contraindicates the choice of the other. This can’t be a “stay or go” choice. Either option must be painful. For example, your protagonist’s best friend needs a kidney, and your protagonist is a perfect match. If he doesn’t give up a kidney for his best friend, his best friend will die. But your protagonist suffers from a rare anesthesia allergy, and giving up a kidney might also mean giving up his own life. What does your character do? How does he feel? Why does he make the choice he does? (Not choosing is not an option.)

– or –

2 – Write a scene of someone eating waffles. Why are they eating waffles? Are they fresh? Homemade? Frozen? Are they eating at a restaurant? What’s the atmosphere, the sounds and smells, around him? Coffee and bacon? Orange juice and toast? Is it noisy? Glasses clinking, pots steaming and sizzling, loud conversation? Or, is he eating at home: quiet and serene on the back porch, with a gentle breeze shushing leaves and birds singing? Is the dog waiting for a handout? Does your character enjoy eating waffles, or is it the only thing “on the menu?” What condiments does she use on her waffles? Butter, syrup, whipped cream, strawberry sauce, fresh fruit? Once you’re done, make the event of eating waffles the significant action of the scene. Why is eating these waffles important?


Image by Churchill95, captured at:

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

The Write Stuff Workshop and Donald Maass – Day 1

I’m in Allentown, PA for The Write Stuff Workshop hosted by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

Agent extraordinaire Donald Maass is here teaching from his “Writing the Breakout Novel” books, and I spent all day in his workshop learning how to apply his techniques to my current WIP.

I’ve read Mr. Maass’s books, and I’ve cruised the internet for information, but there’s nothing like hearing it straight from the well. The presentation is polished – as I expected it would be – but not so routine that it felt mechanical. Which is good, because tomorrow is Day 2 of the pre-conference workshops, and had this presentation been bad, I might have had to bail.

As it is, I’m looking forward to the “Fire in Fiction” workshop tomorrow.

My favorite portion of the class was a discussion of “micro-tension” among the dialogue, exposition and action. It’s this tension that keeps a reader turning pages. He suggests we toss our manuscripts in the air, gather the pages back together in random order, and read each individually to make certain this micro-tension exists.

(If I do this, I’m going to have to print a complete, new copy of my WIP to play with because there is NO WAY I’m putting the pages back in order when I’m done.)

Nine hours later, I’ve got some excellent ideas for tackling my current novel (and perhaps applying to the novel I’m going to shop later this year) and I’m exhausted.

Time for a hot shower and a good book to unwind!

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Dragon or Wyvern?

WyvernCan I assume everyone knows what a dragon is?

A wyvern is a similar creature to — some say a sub-species of — the dragon. It stands on two legs instead of four, and its tail is often seen as arching over its head, scorpion-like, so that it can use the spade-shaped tip to poison it’s enemies.

They’re often depicted in English heraldry on flags and shields and coats-of-arms (such as this flag of the Ancient Kingdom of Wessex, located today in England).

Some people feel they’re interchangeable creatures – but wyverns lack the intelligence of dragons – so you won’t find them starring in any thoughtful stories. In fact, it’s pretty rare to see them “starring” at all.

I’ve written both dragon stories and wyvern stories. I tend to use dragons for “intelligent” tales and wyverns when I need a fierce creature who acts on base instinct…but it seems a shame to me that such a fine (if evil and nasty) creature gets pushed out of the limelight by its more intelligent cousin.

I’m sticking with the intelligence theory: that it’s this lack of smarts that makes the wyvern so unattractive in stories, though it could easily be that it’s not popular because a wyvern has less versatile “artillery” than that of various dragons (and is therefore less useful, in a story).

Or, maybe the wyvern is not used as much because fewer people are aware of the myth.

What’s your take? And which do you like better: dragons or wyverns?

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Writing Prompt: What in the World…?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to world building these days, as I’m slated to teach a class at an upcoming convention. In simple terms, world building is all about setting the scene for your story or novel.

If you write contemporary literature, you may not need to do so much. If you write science fiction or fantasy, you’ll need to be aware of all the differences between the world you’re writing, and the world you live in, so you can make the fictional world believable when you write it.

Mainly, you have to make certain that things, “work.” If it rains blue raisins every night, you’ll need a plausible reason for this phenomena and write it convincingly into the story. And there needs to be balance. For every really cool item you place in the world, you’ve got to have an equally evil or devastating one.

Balance makes the story/world more believable: too much happiness and light and things get boring fast. Too much evil and darkness, and we’re left with no enjoyment, no hope.

Naomi Novik writes stories set in the Napoleonic era where dragons exist. Kim Harrison’s urban fantasies take place in current-day Ohio, where all kinds of supernatural beings exist and tomatoes are thought to be deadly.

What kind of stories could you tell about these kinds of worlds?

Here’s Your Prompt: Create a world, much like your own, with one significant difference. Like Novik’s world, it could be the existence of dragons (or some other mythical creature). Or, like Harrison’s world, it could be that a common plant is considered dangerous. Can you imagine a world without ketchup?

On the flip side, it could be a world without a particular animal or “luxury” item. For example, what if horses didn’t exist? What if airplanes or trains or automobiles had never been invented?

Or build a world where tomatoes (or another plant) are found to cure cancer, Alzheimer’s or some other disease. (This is where balance comes in: if you can cure cancer, there’d better be some other disease or illness or birth defect that people have to struggle with.)

One you’ve built this small piece of your world, think of ways the setting can be used to generate a story idea. What kind of people live in this world? What do they believe? How do they live? How does the setting affect them?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Bad Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory won the 2011 EPIC Award!

EPIC Award Winner 2011I heard the news a few days ago, but it’s now been officially announced, and I can do a public happy dance.

Bad Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory won the 2011 EPIC Award for Best Anthology.Cover of Bad Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory

My story, Selk-Skin Deep appears within its covers.

It’s an alternate history that takes place during the Vietnam War, when President Kennedy first created the Navy SEALs program. In my story, Cade Owen is not only a SEAL, but a Selkie, who’s been assigned duty on the aircraft carrier USS Livingstone in the Gulf of Tonkin.

(Tangent gave my story a nice review, for which I was pleased. I mentioned it in this post previously. You can still read the first five pages of Selk Skin Deep if you’re interested.)

Congrats to editors Danielle Ackley-McPhail, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Lee C. Hillman, and Jeffrey Lyman; and, congrats to all the authors: D.C. Wilson, Hildy Silverman, Chris Pisano & Brian Koscienski, Trisha Wooldridge & Christy Tohara, Lee C. Hillman, Robert E. Waters, Bernie Mojzes, C.J. Henderson, James Daniel Ross, Darren W. Pearce & Neal Levin, Jeffrey Lyman, L. Jagi Lamplighter, me (!), Jason Franks, Patrick Thomas, David Lee Summers, David Sherman, Elaine Corvidae, James Chambers, John L. French, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Visualizing Pi – Very Cool Infographic!

Two Pi interludes in one day, how kewl is that?

Lauren Jackson of the Pacific Northwest Librarians sent me a link to a very fine infographic about Pi (below). I had to share. (It’s had me giggling all the while I’m typing this.)

To let blog readers who may not follow me on Facebook in on the joke: I’m giggling because it comes on the heels of a Facebook post I made earlier today about an infographic on infographics:


Here’s the infographic on infographics in case you’re wondering. The Pi graphic isn’t nearly as colorful, but it’s chock-full of geeky math goodness. That’s a hit in my book.

Thanks, Lauren!

Visualizing Pi

Source: Visualizing Pi

You can see a larger version of the Pi infographic by clicking on it.

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Happy Pi Day!

PiIt’s here! March 14. It’s Pi Day.

(Get it? The date is 314.)

I talked a little bit about it in this Pi post last year.

For the uninitiated:

The Greek letter Pi is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It’s celebrated on March 14, (3/14) because the first few digits of Pi are 3.14. Pi is unique because it’s the only fraction which does not repeat.

The folks over at Pi have links to Pi’s first million digits. Very cool.

Three years in a row, the blog 360 (a very cool math blog) posted a Pi Sudoku. Not this year. But here are links to previous pages:

Pi Sudoku 2008
Pi Sudoku 2009
Pi Sudoku 2010

Check out this link:

(It doesn’t link to any really nifty math stuff, unfortunately, but the URL is still pretty kewl, no?)

And here’s a wonderful page called the Joy of Pi which has tons of very fun Pi links.

I’m off to read about Pi and the Fibonnaci Numbers.

Happy Pi Day!

p.s. Today is also Albert Einstein’s birthday…he didn’t discover Pi, but he’s geeky coolness unto himself.

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Writing Prompt – When I See That View…

Kelly A. Harmon at High Rock Overlook

High Rock Overlook is located just south of the Mason Dixon Line in Washington County, Maryland. It’s a special landmark for several reasons: it’s on the Appalachian Trail, a “landmark” in its own right; it overlooks the “Great Valley,” which spans parts of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania; and it’s near the divide where water on one side of the mountain flows into Antietam Creek (through the valley below) and into the Monocacy River on the other side.

But I just like it for the view.

Standing on the top of the rock, you can see 1400 feet below you. You have to look down to see the eagles flying. When I’m at the edge of the rock, feeling a bit of an updraft, I have an urge to take a running leap off the precipice and fly with them.

High Rock Overlook

Great views will do that to you: inspire you, engender feelings you didn’t think you would have, offer comfort, scare you. Make you wonder: what if ?

Here’s Your Prompt: Dig though your vacation or your day-trip photos looking for pictures of scenic views, ocean storms, cityscapes, anything. Turn pages in albums or flip through directories until you see something that leaps out at you.

If you don’t have any personal albums, turn to google images and search for photos.

Choose a scene that makes you think something you’ve never thought before, or something that urges you to do something you’ve never done before.

Write down that idea before it escapes.

Make a list of all the things that could have led you to that thought, or culminated in the action that calls to you from that view. Write a scene which concludes with that thought, or results in the action you’re drawn to take.

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

It’s Read an Ebook Week!

According to the sponsors of “Read an Ebook Week, the ebook is celebrating its 40th birthday.

In 1971 Michael Hart was handed a real boon – $100,000.00 worth of computer time with a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer. He decided that the greatest value created by computers would not be computing, but would be the storage, retrieval, and searching of what was stored in our libraries. The first “e-book” was born—a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Hard to believe that ebooks have been around for 40 years! It seems like they’ve only just come into vogue.

Although I believe they won’t take the place of a paper book anytime soon, I find that I like ebooks for a lot of reasons: I can carry a lot more books around on my device than I can tote manually, I can buy them anytime of day — in my jammies, no less, and I can search for text within the book (which is only one really kewl features of digitized text, there are hundreds more…).

If you haven’t tested the waters, it might be time to dip your toe in. You don’t have to have a dedicated ebook reader to read ebooks. Kindle, Nook and others have a free desktop software so you can read on your computer.

Don’t be worried about cost. Many ebooks can be purchased for less the the cost of a cup of coffee, and thousands more are available for free.

For starters, you might try where many authors have made their books free, or put them on sale, for the duration of this week. (You can sort by cost, and the site includes a quick-click button to sort by free items.)

If you want totally free access to books, try Project Gutenberg at

(I personally like Project Gutenberg’s Fantasy bookshelf. It includes the Oz books by Frank L. Baum, Lord Dunsany’s writings and Howard Pyle. The Science Fiction bookshelf includes many copies of Astounding magazine, and books by Poul Anderson, James Blish, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Edgar Rice Burroughs and more.)

If you know the book you’re interested in, you might try searching the publisher’s Web site. Publisher’s often have discounts that aren’t advertised on the large commercial bookseller sites.

If you have a favorite site for ebooks, please list it in the comments.

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

A Few Web Site/Email Glitches

I’ve recently transferred my Web site to a new service provider.

Hooray! You should see enhanced performance and experience no more timeouts!

Most glitches have been worked out, and for the most part, it should have been seamless.

Email is the last glitch to get past.

If you sent me anything after 10 pm last night and before 8:00 a.m. this morning, and received a bounce, please resend. It should get to me now.