Friday, June 29th, 2012

Writing Prompt: Camera Day

Today is National Camera Day.

In the spirit of things, I’ve chosen a photo as today’s prompt. Write the first thing that comes into your mind when you see it. Don’t restrict yourself to an essay or character sketch, try a poem form you’ve never tried before or try writing in a POV you don’t normally write in.

If you don’t like my photo, don’t despair. I found it by going to Google Images and typing in the word, “random.” You can try it, too. Or choose a different word. Open up the dictionary, and type in the first word you randomly stab your finger on. See what comes up!

Here’s Your Prompt:

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Story Available, Award Winner, and The 3Six5

Cover of On the Path featuring a pagoda on a mountanside.I’m just full of newsy bits of newsy-news this afternoon, it seems.

On the Path available at Smashwords!

On the Path is finally available at Smashwords in multiple formats.

It was first published in the Parsec Ink Anthology, Triangulation: Dark Glass. It’s full of neat things like soul-powered plows which blow up, and Chinese ancestor-ghosts who come back to haunt their children and take over bodies of the living. Fun for everyone!

It’s priced at 99 cents for now, but will likely increase later this year. Here’s the link to On the Path at Smashwords.


The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal is an Award Winner

Cover of the Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal

The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal (Dragon Moon Press) won a Book of the Year Gold Award in the Writing Category at The Foreward Reviews.

From the Web site: “ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Awards were established to bring increased attention to librarians and booksellers of the literary and graphic achievements of independent publishers and their authors. ForeWord is the only review trade journal devoted exclusively to books from independent houses.”


I have a chapter in the book on joining (or starting) a critique group, along with a short essay on how to critique.


You Should Be Reading The 3Six5 Blog

There’s a fascinating blog called The 3Six5. Each day is written by a different writer and is a slice of their life of what happened on a particular day. Each entry is 365 words or less and includes a picture of what happened on that day.

The writers come from all over the world, and every day is so different than the last.

Today was my day: I talked a bit about my job at the National Agricultural Library and how (strangely) Jack FM played Christmas Carols all day today. You wouldn’t think the two would join for a decent essay, but come together they do.

Read it (and others!) on The 3Six5.

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Writing Prompt – Bugs

I’m playing a word association trick with you today.

What’s the first thing you thought of when you read the title, “bugs?”

Sometimes the shortest words can have the most meanings, depending on context.

I deliberately didn’t post a photo (like I am wont to do) when presenting a writing prompt, because I didn’t want to influence what your initial reaction might be to the word “bugs.” I assure you, there is a picture.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a story, poem or journal entry about the first thing you thought of when you read the word, “bugs.”
  • Take the first thing you thought of, and see how it applies to an old memory. Write about that memory involving bugs.
  • Write about a flu bug, cold germ or cooties.
  • Write about a room being bugged.
  • Write about someone who bugs you (or a time when you bugged someone else). Write about things that bug you.
  • Write about a master computer programmer who inadvertently programs a bug into a program. Writer about a hacker who deliberately puts a bug in the program. Write about one person this bug affects, and how he or she solves the problem.
  • Write literally about bugs: flies, ants, cockroaches, bedbugs, head lice, spiders or stink bugs.
  • Write a favorable (or at least, not negative) poem about a much-disliked bug, like a roach. For example:

    How delightful to suspect
    All the places you have trekked:
    Does your long antenna whisk its
    Gentle tip across the biscuits?

    Do you linger, little soul,
    Drowsing in our sugar bowl?
    Or, abandonment most utter,
    Shake a shimmy on the butter?

    (From Nursery Rhymes for the Tender-Hearted, by Christopher Morley, 1921. Read the full poem here.)

  • Write about catching a bug, a wild enthusiasm or obsession, for something.

Good luck!

p.s. If you want to see the photo that made me think of bugs, here it is.

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Writing Prompt – Memorable Characters

Lucille BallI was getting ready for work this morning and the TV was playing an old I Love Lucy re-run. It reminded me that a book I’ve recently finished reading (The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos – I didn’t like it, BTW) mentioned that Lucille Ball spoke Spanish.

Apparently, when Lucy visited with Desi Arnaz’s friends, she spoke fluently with them.

That one fact created a depth in Lucille Ball’s character that changed irrevocably how I feel about her.

I’m currently reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (This book is a tortuous read which will not end!) in which I’ve met the unlikable (yet memorable) character of Uriah Heep.

According to David Copperfield:

He had a way of writhing when he wanted to express enthusiasm, which was very ugly; and which diverted my attention from the compliment he had paid my relation, to the snaky twistings of his throat and body.

Ew! But how memorable.

Today’s prompt deals with character quirks: gestures, mannerisms, or even distinct physical attributes which make your character stand out. The quirk could be good or bad, depending on how you want to portray your character.

Whatever you do: don’t over do it. Choose one memorable quirk per character — and don’t riddle all the characters in your book with memorable traits, else how will the important ones stand out?

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Create a character quirk for a someone in your work in progress. Write a character sketch to flesh it out before using it in your work. Decide how this quirk affects your character.
  • Create a physical quirk for one of your characters which influences the character’s choice of religion.
  • Create a quirk based on someone’s eating habits. (Does this character eat only blue foods? Mash his food together? Must keep all foods (and all their juices) separate? Etc.)
  • Create a quick based on someone’s hygiene habits. (Does this character wear too much perfume? Wear too much make-up? Dye his hair a different color every week? Wear two-different colored contact lenses, doesn’t bathe, picks her scabs until they bleed? Picks her nose all the time?)
  • Create a long list of attributes, quirks or mannerisms and write them on little slips of paper. Fold them up and stir, then randomly choose two options for a new character. Here’s a short list to begin with:

    freckles, lisp, nail biting, body odor, wears the same clothes every day, wears too much perfume, whispers instead of talks, only eats sweet foods, doesn’t comb hair, hiccups when nervous, noisily stirs tea or coffee, a full beard, a limp, an irritating laugh, chews food with mouth open, allergies, gets seasick, paranoia, knows it all, argumentative, class clown, morbid, dresses only in one color

  • If you journal, consider writing about a family member or close friend with a memorable quirk. Think of a time that quirk caused an argument, created laughter, or instilled love. Write a ‘character sketch’ about this person or the incident.

Good luck!

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Writing Prompt – Meeting New People

Marty FeldmanThis morning I had breakfast with some folks I’d never met before. Lovely, lovely bloggers — with family in tow — including a guy heading off to the Naval Academy. (Wishing him the best of luck!)

We laughed a lot, and told stories, and traded slang terms for things…some I’d heard of, others I hadn’t.

(Scribbling furiously now into that book I keep with new words in it. What? You don’t have one of those?)

I enjoyed watching everyone order. We’d been drawn together by common interest (blogging) but everyone is still so different! Not one of us ordered the same thing for breakfast or to drink.

And as much as I enjoy meeting new people (Yes: So I can steal bits and pieces of them, chop them up, and toss them into the salad of my novels…) I have to admit there was a bit of dread there on the way over to the restaurant:

What if I didn’t like them? What if they didn’t like me? What is someone had a giant scar (caused by a giant’s, giant cudgel) on their face and I became obsessed with staring at it over the meal?

It could happen.

Luckily, it didn’t. And a good time was had by all.

Here’s Your Prompt

  • Write about a blind date: how you feel leading up to it, how you dress, what you anticipate will happen, what you expect that person to look like. Write, as well, about the initial moment of seeing that person. Did he or she meet your expectation or not? What was your initial reaction? Did your opinion change over the course of the date? (This exercise could be fictitious or real…)
  • If you’ve never been on a blind date, or don’t want to dream one up, write similarly about a job interview.
  • all
    Seemed like some brothers on a journey wide
    Gone forth, whom now strange meeting did befall
    In a strange land round one whom they might call
    Their friend, their chief, their father, for assay
    Of peril, which had saved them from the thrall
    Of death, now suffering. Thus the vast array
    Of those fraternal bands were reconciled that day.

    ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Revolt of Islam

  • There’s a man or a woman sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper, a magazine, or on an electronic device. Sit down (or sit your character down) beside them and strike up a conversation. Write it. In your prose, make certain to include the setting, what everyone is wearing, what’s going on in the area, your thoughts, etc. Don’t just write the dialogue.
  • Write about a time you were supposed to have a very important meeting — and the other party didn’t show up.
  • Write about meeting for the first time:
    • Your favorite school teacher
    • Your mentor
    • A policeman – during an “incident”
    • A politician
    • A priest, nun, rabbi, monk or other holy person
  • Other trace
    Survives, for worthy mention, of a pair
    Who, from the pressure of their several fates,
    Meeting as strangers, in a petty town
    Whose blue roofs ornament a distant reach
    Of this far-winding vale, remained as friends
    True to their choice; and gave their bones in trust
    To this loved cemetery…

    ~ William Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book Sixth, The Churchyard among the Mountains

  • Write about the first time you met your spouse. Or, if you’re writing fiction, write a sex scene between two (or three!) people who are meeting for the first time.
  • Trippers and askers surround me;
    People I meet—the effect upon me of my early life, or the ward and city I live in, or the nation,
    The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,
    My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
    The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
    The sickness of one of my folks, or of myself, or ill-doing, or loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations;
    Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events;
    These come to me days and nights, and go from me again,
    But they are not the Me myself.

    ~ Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1900)

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Writing Prompt – Doughnuts and Other Sweets

Glazed DoughnutIt so happens that June 1 is Doughnut Day. And so, we must talk about doughnuts.

I’d rather have a piece of cake (or chocolate) than a doughnut, but there are days when a warm glazed doughnut beats everything else hands down. I also like a chilled Boston Creme with a tall, cold glass of milk.

I’m not a “sugar in the morning person,” so doughnuts for breakfast is anathema to me.

(The worst part of my honeymoon trip to Italy was breakfast. I’m afraid the Italians adore sugar in the morning with their strong, black coffee. I would ask for a plain dinner roll or slice of bread and invariably it would come sugar glazed. Sacrilege!

In the early morning, I would try to sneak into the kitchen and grab a loaf of day-old-bread to eat with my coffee. Oh, the squawking when they found me! Apparently, it’s just not done to eat day old bread in Italy!)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Are doughnuts your favorite breakfast food? If so, which kind? Write an essay about your favorite kind of doughnut. Why do you like it? How does it taste when you bite into it? Recall a time in the past when something significant happened and you were eating those kind of donuts (graduation, wedding or funeral breakfast, a fondly remembered sleepover, breakfast with the guys after a binge, etc.) and write a richly-detailed essay.
  • Write a “love-essay” in adoration about another kind of dessert you enjoy so much.
  • If, like me, sweets aren’t your thing at all, write about some other kind of food you’re passionate about in the morning. (Some folks can’t live without their bacon, others without their OJ. What’s your secret morning vice?)
  • Write a poem about doughnuts or some other sweet.
  • Doughnuts! Oh, doughnuts! Definers of yum.
    You perfect fried circles of dough.
    Although you’re caloric, you leave me euphoric…
    So give me a dozen to go!

    ~ by Gregory K.

    See the complete poem on the GottaBook Blog.

  • Write a short story, journal entry, or a creative non-fiction item where a doughnut or bakery is an important element.
  • Create a new doughnut (or dessert) recipe. Write a magazine or newspaper article about it. Or, create a fictitious cookbook entry. Make the name of it sing! Describe it in detail. What makes your doughnut (or other dessert) special?
  • “He’d give him a little hunch behind, and the next minute you’d see that frog whirling in the air like a doughnut—” ~ Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens), Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog
  • “But the crafty Greek, to the tyrant’s hurt,
    (Though he didn’t deserve so fine a dessert),
    Took a dozen of wine from his leather trunk,
    And plied the giant until he was drunk!—”

    ~ John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887) – Polyphemus and Ulysses

  • Pretend you are a food expert. Your job is to help restaurant owners write their promotional materials for their new desserts. Write a description that could be used on a placemat, poster, or even a television advertisement. You’re trying to entice someone to buy, so be descriptive in taste, texture, flavor, ingredients, etc. Consider such questions as: Who would you market to? Where would it be sold? Why should people choose this dessert/doughnut over another?
  • “Accordingly I answered: “Shields, there is no one in this regiment more entitled to be shot than you are, and you shall go to the front.” His gratitude was great, and he kept repeating, “I’ll never forget this, Colonel, never.” Nor did he. When we got very hard up, he would now and then manage to get hold of some flour and sugar, and would cook a doughnut and bring it round to me, and watch me with a delighted smile as I ate it.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), An Autobiography. 1913.

Good luck!