Monday, August 29th, 2011

Are You More Productive During the Day or During the Evening?

Lighted Pen to Write at NightI got to thinking of writing productivity cycles when I got to work this morning.

I left the house at 5:30 a.m. in total darkness.

An hour later, I arrived at work: Pink skies lighting up the day, the sun finally cresting the horizon. Fairly soon, it will be dark when I leave and still dark when I arrive.

Inside, I did a little happy dance: fall means more writing for me. More time at the computer, more time with my butt in the chair, more time with my hands poised above the keyboard…because there are more hours of darkness than light.

(I caught myself thinking this morning: It shouldn’t be so dark in the morning, yet! Doesn’t this normally occur in October or November? I’m a firm believer that a.m. darkness should be accompanied by cool weather, a windy chill, and maybe some dry leaves tumbling by.)

Fall is my favorite season, but I’m never quite prepared for it.

Nonetheless, I’m tickled: not only do I love all those wonderful Fall things to embrace (orange and yellow mums, cool sweater days, crisp evenings on the deck, Halloween!), but I can look forward to putting more words on paper.

It’s not that summer has me playing hooky (though it’s true: I blew off more than a day or two of writing this summer to do something else.)

It’s that I find myself more productive — itchy to write, even — once the sun goes down. And with fall bringing shorter days and longer nights…well, it’s a no-brainer: I’m going to be racking up the word count. (And along with it, more completed projects, I hope.)

I enjoy writing at night. There’s something about the enveloping darkness that allows me to concentrate better.
What about you? Fall: love it or hate it? Do the changing seasons affect your writing? Are you a daytime or nightime writer?

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Where Did the Summer Go?

Rear view of School BusKids in my county go back to school on Tuesday. Others started back last week.

(I only realized that when the traffic got bad again on the way to work in the a.m….)

This summer just blew right by me.

I haven’t been fishing once. [That is a truly sad statement.]

In honor of this occasion of summer ending and school beginning, I figured we should have a back to school prompt (starting with the inevitable, groan inspiring … wait for it…)

Here’s Your Prompt:

Choose one or several items below to write about. Don’t just answer the question. Give some thought to the whys and wherefores. Write for 5, 10 or fifteen minutes. Or, write until you’re done. Hammer our a rough draft and leave it. Or, polish it up for publication. Turn these into memoir-type essays, letters to your family members, genealogical vignettes, or whatever you wish!

  1. What did you do on your summer vacation? (Okay, now you can groan.)
  2. Best. Vacation. Ever. (This one is pure fiction. If you could do anything, go anywhere, what would it be?)
  3. Where did the summer go?
  4. If it were summer every day…
  5. August is the only month of the year without a (U.S.-observed) holiday. Make one up! How would you celebrate it?
  6. I’m looking forward to __________ this school year…
  7. Five things I like about school.
  8. How I’m going to make this the best school year ever!
  9. What is the most significant memory (bad or good!) from each year of elementary school, high school, university or technical school?
Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Cover Available for the Paranormal Guide!

Cover for How to Write Paranormal Novels Volume 1The cover is available for the how-to-write paranormal guide that I’ve written a chapter for!

Isn’t it gorgeous?

It looks like there might be a change in title in this volume. It was originally to be called: The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal: Undead, Cursed and Inhuman. Now, it just looks like it’s going to be called The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal: Volume 1.

A tentative publication date is slated for September or October (yes, 2011!) by Dragon Moon Press.


Until Kim Richards took over the editing for this book, I was seriously doubting that it would ever get published. I’ve had to move it up my bibliography page for the last couple of years, having been first “Forthcoming in 2009,” I believe.

I’ve never had a piece be accepted and then sit so long before publication (though I admit I have another piece out there right now that’s approaching a similar timeline…)

That being said…

Yay!   (Yeah, I know I said that already, but I’m too excited to keep it in.)

My chapter is on finding and joining (or starting your own) critique group…but there is tons of nuts and bolts information about how to write anything paranormal. And there were so many contributions by authors, that there are two volumes planned.


I’ll let you know when the book is available for sale.

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Cryptic Notes

16491 written on a napkinI was emptying out the pockets of my favorite jacket this week before I’d tossed it into the washer when I pulled out a note I’d apparently written to myself.

I say “apparently” because I have no recollection of making the note. I also have no idea what it means.


Why would I jot down a number, without context, on a scrap of paper napkin? Didn’t this note deserve an entire napkin? This number must have been important…and yet, it’s meaningless now. I can’t even begin to think about how much time has passed since I wrote it.

What could it have meant?

All kinds of possibilities flood my mind: it’s a pin number for a bank account, it’s the amount of money in my bank account, it’s how much money I owe someone…

(Why does my mind think of money, just because it’s a number?)

Maybe it’s a measurement: in feet, or miles, or minutes. What if it’s the number of something my character desperately needs to complete her quest? Get on with his life? End her journey?

What if my character never figures this out?

Here’s Your Prompt:

Go dig through your pockets looking for cryptic notes!

I realize that won’t work for everyone, so here are some alternatives:

  1. Open the book nearest to your dominant hand, turn to a random page, and write down a few words, or perhaps the sentence, smack in the middle of the page.
  2. Do the same with a magazine, a newspaper, or some junk mail from today’s pile.
  3. Pick up a dictionary or thesaurus, turn to any page, close your eyes and point to a word. Do this five or six times to come up with a completely random phrase.
  4. If you’re feeling plucky, see if you can find a scribbled note tossed in a trash can at the local coffee shop or deli. (A list of someone else’s errands or grocery wants might be fascinating!)
  5. Do the same from a co-worker’s trash can… don’t get caught!
  6. This could work: Explain the task, then ask someone to write the (brief) cryptic note for you.

Now that you’ve got your note…

Write a story or poem (or song, etc.)…

The story could be about someone who finds a cryptic note (in a pocket, on the ground, in a sibling’s locked diary…), or about the ideas engendered by the words (or numbers…)

Maybe the note is a code. Maybe someone else put the note in the protagonist’s pocket. Maybe the note was written by an Alzheimer’s patient to her son, and found by him after her last will and testament is read.

The possibilities are endless….

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

If you enjoy these prompts, please let me know by telling me so in the comments. Feel free to share a snippet or two of what you come up with, as well!

Monday, August 15th, 2011

How Not to Find an Agent – And Lose Your Script at the Same Time

BriefcaseQ: So have you heard about the writer who got his screenplay blown up with a bomb?

A: This isn’t a joke.

Apparently an aspiring screenplay writer left his script in a locked briefcase in an L.A. agent’s offices Friday. The agency called the police about the bag, and, following protocol, they blew it up.

To make matters worse: he’d left his laptop in the briefcase, so that’s gone, too.

You can read the full story here in the New York Times.

This poor guy broke a pile of rules related to finding an agent:

  1. he (apparently) hung out at the agency and made a pest of himself.
  2. he hand-delivered his manuscript (which can be okay if the agent requests it – apparently, no agent requested this writer do so)
  3. he caused the employees in the office to be suspicious-enough – even frightened enough – to call the police to investigate

I have to wonder why he left his laptop along with the briefcase. It’s a new “thing not to do” on my radar.

(Really, it’s common sense, isn’t it, to keep your laptop and offer an agent a copy of your manuscript?)

In my book, this trumps sliding your manuscript to an agent underneath a bathroom stall door.

I don’t think this guy is stupid, he’s probably desperate, and uninformed. He should have done his homework. There are tons of sites on the internet devoted to helping writers get published.

Have you ever done anything — or known anyone else to do anything — so uninformed in a search for an agent?

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Using Google Searches and Twitter Trends for Ideas

Google Trends Map - SampleI’m spending a lot of time on line for my day job lately (whether I like it or not!) – and I realized that Google search provides some interesting ideas for writing prompts.

Today’s top 20 USA searches (at this moment) are:

1. so you think you can dance winner
2. warrant
3. gop debate
4. republican debate
5. ron paul
6. short selling
7. raiders
8. mitt romney
9. meteor shower
10. rick santorum
11. sc
12. chargers
13. cowboys
14. jeff bridges
15. final destination 5
16. alpha
17. mall of america
18. blackberry bold 9900
19. pizza hut
20. haaretz

These topics aren’t really interesting, IMHO, but no worries: Google updates the trends frequently. If you don’t like these searches for prompt suggestions, wait an hour!

Google saves this data on a daily basis, so, you also see what trended on specific days (like national holidays, big news days, or your birthday.) (More information about Google Trends here.)

Twitter also keeps a running list of trending tweet topics on their site. If you have an account, the information is available to you on line. I’m not sure which, if any, third-party twitter clients provide this data, but fear not: the data is available elsewhere.

(But the beauty of getting the Twitter data from the online interface is that the trends default to your location…. but you can change it to show another city if you want, or you can choose national or world-wide trends as well.)

The current trends for Las Angeles are:

Jani Lane
American Dad
Bert and Ernie
Minutes or Less
That 70
Pauly D

If you don’t tweet, you can still get twitter trending data from a number of sources such as Tendsmap and Tendistic.

Here’s Your Prompt:

Head on over to Google Trends and see what’s popular.

Pretend that a character in your story is making these searches on the internet. Why is he searching these items? What’s happening in your story to support these searches? Is your character surprised by what she found? Is what he found important to the story? Figure out the motivation for your character making these searches. Decide how he’ll use the information, and write it.

If you don’t have a character…

…use the trending topics as a jumping off point for a timed writing exercise. Use the topics as an idea generator, or use them as the beginning (or ending line) of a story. They might even be used as the opening sentence in a story.

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Guess What Floated Over My House Today?

Hot Air Balloon - As seen from Underneath!
One colorful — beautiful — hot air balloon!

This very same balloon passed by our house a few weeks ago on a Saturday. I’d heard it coming: the intermittent sound of the driver letting loose a stream of fire to keep the balloon aloft. (Almost like a dragon coughing out a bitter exhortation of flame…)

But the noise was strange — I’d never heard it before — and I couldn’t place it. I finally got up to look and saw it drifting past the house.

By the time I’d gotten outside, the balloon had sunk so low, we could hear the people talking in the gondola. I’d rushed to get my camera, but I was too slow. It had dipped behind our neighbor’s trees, and I only caught about two-thirds of it.

Tonight, the balloon passed directly over our house! I’m kicking myself for not zooming in more on the bottom of it. It came in closer than the picture actually shows. At the time, I felt I could almost — almost — jump up and touch the bottom.

Again, we could hear the people chattering away in the basket. So close!

Next time, I’ll be ready! I’ve got to figure out who’s giving these balloon rides. What a thrill it would be to glide over my own house and set down in the neighboring field! A quick walk through the woods and I’d be home!

Hot Air Balloon - As seen from Underneath!
Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Free T-Shirt – or Short Story – for a Little Help?

Cover of Is there anyone out there well-versed in Smashwords who can give me a hand?

I’ve just posted my short story, The Dragon’s Clause, so that lots of folks can read it natively on their hardware, but I’m not happy with the way the formatting has turned out.

The title, front matter and end notes sometimes slip into a san-serif font in some versions of the book.

I’ve combed through the Smashwords Style Guide for hints, even going as far as trying the “nuclear” method for formatting, and no matter what, the fonts keep changing.

But after 15 uploads, I’m tired of trying. I need a little help. 🙂

If you can help me figure out how to make it right, I’ll send you a t-shirt bearing the cover of The Dragon’s Clause. If that doesn’t interest you, I’ll be happy to send you a copy of my story, On the Path. It was published in the Parsec Inc. Anthology, Triangulation: Dark Glass, a few years ago, and will be my next experiment on Smashwords.

Drop me a line via email if you can help. Thanks!

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Water, Water Everywhere…

Sunset over the Pacific OceanHot summer days always make me think of cooling off in the ocean. I love racing through the shifting sand, and the sound of my slapping feet on the hard-packed grains by the water. That first dive over a rolling breaker into the ocean is the best.

I prefer the ocean over a swimming pool because it feels alive. The texture of the water is different, the smell, the sound. I especially love it on a windy day, when you can hear the blown grains of sand hissing as they slide over each other, propelled by the gusts.

I love writing by the ocean. It’s inspiring, even if what I’m writing has nothing to do with water or the beach. There’s just something about the atmosphere that sends my muse into overdrive.

It’s hot today, and I’m thinking about the ocean…but I know a lot of folks don’t get supercharged like I do about it. So, today’s prompt is about water. I’ve listed several ideas to get your started…

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write about the ocean. Write about high tide, or low tide, or neap tide. Tell us about when the water reached your thighs, or your waist, or your neck. Write about something that washed up onto the shore.(Well, I had to at least list it, right?)
  • Write about a river, a pool, a stream, a swamp. Write about river rocks, uneven footing, slipping into a deep hole, diving into the deep end, learning to swim, the smell of the bog, or swamp people.
  • Write about being in a safe harbor, in hot water, a mile above sea level, or something that won’t hold water.
  • Write about singing in the rain, taking a bath, or rubber-de-duckies.
  • What if you found you could suddenly hold your breath for long periods of time underwater? What if you found you could breath water?
  • Perhaps you’re more inspired by quotations…
    • “Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.” (From Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
    • “As water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.” (From The Old Testament: 2 Samuel Chapter xiv. Verse 14.)
    • “For water continually dropping will wear hard rocks hollow…” (From Of the Training of Children, Plutarch)
    • “Love in a hut, with water and a crust, Is—Love, forgive us!—cinders, ashes, dust.” (From Lamia. Part ii., John Keats)