Friday, April 29th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Hands That Tell a Story

Pictures of HandsI got sucked into the whole Royal Wedding Thing this morning, prompted by the fact that I wanted to see Kate Middleton’s dress.

As I was watching, I got to thinking about hands.

Kate’s hands were in the focus of the camera a lot, because she was waving, of course, and then there was that wedding ring bit. I was quite surprised to see how plain they were. Like the dress and the jewels and the tiara, I expected a little more pomp.

Here’s a close up of the ring ceremony. The angle’s not great, but you can see that Kate’s got blunt nails and little polish on them if any. I had an earlier impression of her having bit them down to nubs, but I think this disproves me. Still, her nails are short and to the point, yes?

Kate Middleton's Wedding Ring

Here’s a close-up of my own hands the morning of my wedding – those talons are real, btw, no fakes for me. (I couldn’t bear to waste my time in a salon – and besides, I think typing makes them stronger.)

Kate Middleton's Wedding Ring

So, what do Kate’s hands say about her? That she can’t be bothered at all? That she’d rather spend her time doing something else? That she can’t bear to spend her time in salon?

What about the photos to the left? Old hands at the top surely evoke a story. Robot hands must make something come to mind. My favorite are those working on the engine. When I get my hands dirty, I take off my rings. Not these fellows. What does that say about them?

Here’s Your Prompt: Study the hands around you. Look at the hands of mothers and policemen and construction workers. Peer at artists’ hands and those of teachers and nurses. Look at your own hands!

Do these hands reveal the vocation or hobby of their owners or not? Does the mechanic you know carefully remove any hint of grease from his nails before he comes home from the shop? Does the artist strip all the paint off or leave it on? Whose hands are dry and cracked, old and worn, nicked and cut?

Now, write a scene or memoir or even non-fiction about a person who’s interesting feature is his hands. Describe them, and why they’re significant — but don’t keep all the description in a large single paragraph. Work in bits of description and significance between the story: show us how these hands are important without telling us all at once. Keep the tension by gradually revealing the story bit by bit.

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Would You Still Write, if You Had to Use a Typewriter?

Woman Seated beside Underwood Typewriter.  Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress. Permalink: Post reported earlier today that the last typewriter factory in the world (located in Mumbai, India) was shutting down later this year.

They’ve since run a correction, citing a letter from an employee, that while production is down, they are nowhere near closing their doors. And, in fact, there are other factories in the world (located in China, Japan, and Indonesia) still creating these beautiful machines.

The story made me wonder how many people today would try to bang out a masterpiece if they had to do it on a Royal Upright, an Underwood (pictured at right) or even a Brother electronic?

Would you?

I remember speaking with an editor a few years ago at a convention about how computers had really changed the publishing industry, not from the viewpoint of helping publishers, but hindering them.

The fact is (and I’m paraphrasing the editor here) that owning a computer and printer makes it so easy to write prose, print it out, and mail it off to a publishing house, that every Tom, Dick and Harry who got an idea for a novel (or trilogy) is writing one and sending it off.

Publishing houses are inundated with manuscripts (many of which, according to the editor, should never have been written)!

I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon…and a typewriter — even the ancient Royal upright that we had at home when I was young — was an improvement over wax, despite cramped fingers and wrists by the end of a page or two.

I LOVED the electric typewriter I got for my 12th birthday (thanks, Mom and Dad)!

Would I still be writing if I had to use that ancient Royal? You bet.

How about you? If publishing houses required that manuscripts be submitted on onion-skin paper, typed on an upright…would you still do it?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

My Book, Front and Center, at the RT Booklovers Convention!

It’s not a romance, but…my publisher thinks enough of Blood Soup to take it to the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention (held in LA, this year).

Here it is, front and center, on the table at the con.

I wonder how many romance readers I can pull over to fantasy?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Writing Prompt: Surgical Surprise

Snapshot of an Operation Pretend you (or your character) is scheduled for surgery: something “relatively minor,” like gall bladder removal.

You’re prepped, laying on the gurney in a hospital gown minus your skivvies and socks. The anesthesiologist shoots a nice little brain-numbing drug into your IV and you feel yourself getting woozy.

As they’re wheeling you into the surgery, the doctor leans over you and tells you, “Everything is going to be all right.”

Only, it’s not your doctor…and you knew you were going to be “all right” because what you had going on what something relatively minor.

Before you can protest, everything goes dark.

When you wake up, you realize you’ve still got your gall bladder, but something else is missing.

Here’s Your Prompt: What is it? What actually happened in the operating room? Who was the mysterious doctor? What are the repercussions of this surgery? And, what about your gall bladder?

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

A Fortune Cookie that Wants Me to Have the Answers…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a fortune-cookie fortune.

When I do, I usually jump on my soapbox and rant about fortunes not being fortunes anymore. (Seriously, when was the last time you heard, “You will be lucky in business.” ?)

Fortunes should predict something. Anything.

I’m tired of these modern slips which provide such pithy commentary as, “We have too many sounding words and too few actions that correspond with them.”

Worse, are those that tell you what to do: “Find release from your cares. Have a good time.”

Once, I got a ‘fortune’ that told me I have idea problems–not good for a writer– and rather rude, too. That’s tantamount to name calling, in my opinion. Sadly, I’ve even cracked open cookies which had no fortune at all.

At least this one put me in charge of everything for the day.

But today’s fortune really takes the cake:

Chinese Fortune: What is Right? How do you define the meaning of right? What is left?
Friday, April 15th, 2011

Writing Prompt: Reverse Poetry

April is National Poetry month in the U.S. and Canada.

Do you like poetry? I admit that I don’t know much about it, although I do know what I like.

I favor bouncy, rhyming poems a la Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein (because they are so fun!), but I also like e.e. cummings (clever, clever).

Henley’s Invictus is my favorite (Thanks, Charlie!) because the strength of the narrator appeals to me. It’s also dark, and I really like that.

In honor of National Poetry month, let’s have a prompt about poems.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  1. Write a poem. It can be jouncy, bouncy, rhyming fun, or free verse, or even a patterned poem, such as a sonnet. (If you choose haiku, you must write at least 5!)

    Here are some resources on how to write poetry:

  2. For a twist on writing poetry, choose a favorite scene from a book or movie, and write it in poetry form. Again, it can be free verse, rhyming or patterned.
  3. Here’s where the reverse poetry idea comes in: find a poem, any poem, that you like. It can be one from childhood, or a new one you’ve never read before. Then, re-write the poem in prose, but the deal is, you have to use the exact words of the poem in your essay /story / scene.

    For example, if you were to choose Silverstein’s “Forgotten Language” which starts off:

    Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
    Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,

    You could write…

    Once I spoke the language of the flowers: silent and delicate, a trembling of fingers or tilting of head conveyed much. Lengthy speeches could not offer as much information as the casual lift of a hand.

    Once, I understood each word the caterpillar said, I knew the flowers for liars….

    Get the idea? Find some poetry here:

Brownie points if you post in the comments! Have fun!

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Who’s Your Favorite Childhood Author?

NPR is reporting that a new Dr. Seuss book will be available in the fall.

I’m so excited! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Dr. Seuss.

I have every book he’s ever written (venerated on the top shelf of one of my many, many, bookcases) but apparently not every story.

But you can bet I will by this fall!

These seven collected tales were printed in magazines in the 50s, and never collected into any volume. According to the article, some of them have not been in circulation in over 60 years.

How cool is that?

I have other favorites from childhood, including Milne and Nesbit (and Heinlein and Asimov, but they hardly qualify – even if I was reading them all together).

So: if you could have a “collected works” of any one childhood author on your top shelf, who would it be?

Monday, April 11th, 2011

What Movie Would You Drive 2 Hours to See?

It’s been pointed out to me that next week Atlas Shrugged — the movie — is being released (April 15).

How serendipitous! (Or not, really…)

I had no idea a movie was in the making (but I generally don’t follow that stuff anyway – so, please, cut me a break 🙂 ).

There will be limited showings, so, I hope there’s one in my neck of the woods — or close by. I’ll define “close” as within a 2-hour one-way drive. I’d like to see it ASAP since I’ve finished the book so recently.

(My take on the book, in case you missed it.)

Apparently, the book is so long, that the movie needs to be produced in three parts. Only part 1 is available next week. You can see the trailer, which I’ve plugged in below, as well as several scenes from the movie at the official web site. There are also two spankin’ movie posters on the site.

I love the “Who is John Galt?” poster. I’m going to hang it here in my office.

Here’s the trailer:

So: what movie would you drive two hours to see?

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Writing Prompt: 200 Words Before Breakfast

Today’s prompt is all about quantity and nothing about subject matter.

Yesterday, Wil Wheaton posted on his blog Two Hundred Words Before Six in the Morning.

A single page, double-spaced, yields on average 250 words – less, however, if you’re writing poetry or dialogue. But if you can write one page every day, you can churn out roughly one novel a year (two, if you’re writing YA fiction.)

Can you do it?

Here’s Your Prompt: Write 200 words before something:  200 words before breakfast, or before your lunch break is over, or before you have to leave the house this morning.

Write 200 words before you’re finished drinking your coffee / tea / soda. Write 200 words before you have to pick up the kids from school today.

Do you work full time? Write 200 words before you start your workday, or before your morning meeting (admit it, you’re checking your personal email, right? Skip it, and write.)

Do you ride public transportation? Write 200 words before your stop. Or, 200 words before you arrive this morning.

Whatever you do today, write 200 words.

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Predicted the Now?

Atlas ShruggedAtlas Shrugged   has been on my “to read” list for a long time, and I finally finished it.

I “read” it via audio book — the 25th Anniversary Edition — which contained a long introduction about Ayn Rand and her process. I found it fascinating.

She journaled obsessively about the story before beginning to write, and filled hundreds of pages with information about the characters and how they felt, what they did and why they acted in certain ways and more. She determined precisely how she would portray a character and listed ways to show this to readers.

The book is a hefty tome, and the audio version was over 63 hours of listening. There were times I wanted to just pull the plug, but I persevered, and I’m glad I did.

Atlas Shrugged is the story of Dagny Taggert, who fights to save Taggert Transcontinental Railroad from failing as the US falls into a downward economic spiral. Bad economics are caused by government intrusion into industry and the economy.

The government passes the Preservation of Livelihood Law, which limits the production of any one company to the output of another; as well as the Fair Share Law, making it possible for anyone who wants its “fair share” of a commodity to simply file the paperwork and get in line, regardless if they can pay for it or not.

Big Business is essentially forced to pay for the privilege of being in business. And if obeying the laws creates a negative profit flow, they can’t close up shop: because there’s another law that states that a business must remain open and continue to employ all its workers.

[Spoiler Alert]

This government intrusion spurs John Galt, an inventor who creates a motor which would revolutionize the world, to destroy the motor and withdrawal from society. He creates a home in a Colorado valley which he hides with the help of another invention, and one-by-one invites other industrialists to join him. Their disappearance signals the end of the US economy and the death of many who no longer have the support of the industrialists.

[End Spoiler]

Rand’s writing in Atlas Shrugged can only be called ‘philosophical.” She employs rhetoric every chance she gets, which accounts for the length of the story. In fact, there is a radio speech at the end of the book, made by John Galt which lasted over two hours of my listening time.

(I never wanted to fast-forward something so much in my life!)

Part of me can’t help but feel that what Rand describes is what’s happening now in the U.S. Did she predict this present turmoil?

But that’s the nature of a philosophical work: the questions asked are timeless and thought-provoking.

I’ll go a step further and opine that Rand was writing alternate-future (rather than alternate-history), pushing the What if?  boundaries as far as they could go. Let’s hope her fiction never comes to pass.

*Photo above is courtesy of Flickr Commons/Fibonacci Blue