Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Writer’s Prompt: What’s in Your Character’s Survival Kit?

Man wearing a backpack, back to the camera.I was reading Military 1 today and came across an article about what Navy SEAL’s keep in their survival kits. These kits, which are used if a SEAL is caught behind enemy lines, are pretty impressive.

Each kit is only 4 inches by 2 inches by 1.5 inches, and comes in your choice of tan or green.

SEALs are able to use the kits as a digging tool, and a pot to cook food in (though not at the same time) – and they contain an impressive array of items: a mini, stainless-steel Multi Tool with pliers, wire cutters, file, and awl; button compass; LED Sqeeze light; fire starting kit; full-sized blanket; 2 x 3 signal mirror with aiming hole; bobby pins; safety pins; rope; first aid items and more.

They’ve got to be prepared for anything.

This got me thinking about our characters and what they might pack as “survival” items in our stories.

The lead character in my work in progress carries some specific demon-banishing items in her purse at all times, since lately, she’s been plagued by demons. Part of her kit includes holy water, holy chrism (oil) and salt which has been blessed by a priest. She uses these items to seal windows and doors, and in a pinch, they become weapons against the demons.

So, she’s always prepared, right?

Wrong. Where’s the drama in that? (She’s going to learn fairly soon that her kit no longer works.)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Create a “survival kit” for your character. It could be as small and jam-packed as a Navy SEAL’s, or could be as mundane as the items your character habitually loads into his pockets every morning. Whatever it is: have a good reason for the items to be there. It’s got to be something your character carries with him every day. It’s too Deus ex machina if the items show up only when your character needs them.
  • Think about all the ways those items can be countered. What logical things could happen to make the survival kit less than useful?
  • Write the scene where your character realizes that all his or her prep has been for naught. Lead him or her through determination to get the job done, frustration after frustration of items in the kit not working, realization of failure, decision to quit and/or determination to succeed no matter what.

Good Luck!

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Ripley Patton’s Ghost Hand – Free in the Kindle Store Today

Cover of the Book Ghost Hand by Ripley PattonYou may remember that in December I wrote about how much I loved Ripley Patton’s Ghost Hand. Ripley was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself, the writing, and of course, the book.

Yay for us!

Well, if you didn’t pick up the book then, do so now: it’s free in the Kindle Store today.

Get it here:

Ghost Hand (The PSS Chronicles)

If you pick it up, give some love to Ripley! Like the book, Tweet it, add it to your Goodreads lists, and/or leave a review.

(Reviews are always the best: they’re like gold to authors!)

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Writing Prompt – I Spy With My Little Eye…

Woman with a camera held up to her face, taking a picture.Question: Where do ideas come from?

Answer: They’re all around us.

But sometimes, they’re difficult to “see.” There’s a lot of visual stimulation around us, whether we’re visiting someplace new or sitting in our own writing spaces surrounded by the familiar.

Today’s writing prompt is a challenge. I want you to spend some time focusing on the objects around you and come up with a story (or a poem, or a memoir/journal entry, etc.) about one of the objects you see. Don’t let your eyes flick past the things you’ve viewed a million times a day. Instead, choose one to focus on, and think about some possibilities:

  • How did you acquire it? Was it given to you by a friend? What if someone else had given it? (An enemy? A teacher? An alien? What kind of story would that make?
  • How was it manufactured? What if it were made of something else? What if it had additional properties such as motion, magnetism, solubility, invisibility?
  • Who owned it before you did? Your brother? Your cousin? Henry the VIII?
  • Imagine this item in another location. What significance does the new location bring to the object? (Does it give you an idea for a story?)

Now…kick it up a notch by letting your imagination run wild. Start with the focus object, and continue to ask questions of it until the object of your study is no longer what you focused on. Instead of asking the “usual” questions, take a tangent… What does the color of it remind you of? How about the shape, or the texture? Maybe the gold-rimmed dinner plate which used to belong to your grandmother makes you think of the moon. Write a poem about the moon, or a story about a colony on the moon, or a fantasy about the moon’s pull on a witch’s spells.

Maybe the blue lamp is the same color of the ocean on a rainy morning. It makes you think of a secret at a beach house, a romance on an island, or a pirate shipwreck in Boston Harbor.

You get the idea.

Write that story (poem, vignette, journal entry, etc.) without the focus piece ever being mentioned in it.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Easy: Write something (a poem, a short story, a scene, etc.) using your object of choice, coupled with some of the questions outlined above (or more of your own!) Make certain that item is the focus of the piece.
  • Challenging: Start with a focus object, but transform it into a solid idea. Write something which was inspired by your focus piece.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Deep Cuts Anthology Now Available!

Deep Cuts Horror AnthologyI have a new story out in a horror anthology called Deep Cuts: Mayhem, Menace, & Misery.

My story is in the “Misery” section: a psychological thriller/ghost story called Lucky Clover about two high school grads who embark on a road trip before college, and get more than they bargained for.

As I said in October when I signed the contract, I’m super excited to be in an anthology with great writers such as Nancy Holder (of Buffy fame, and a five-time Bram Stoker Award™ winner), Mehitobel Wilson (nominated for a Bram Stoker Award™ and awarded Honorable Mention in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror Anthology five years in a row!) and Yvonne Navarro (also a winner of the Bram Stoker Award™).

Published by Evil Jester Press, the anthology is part of a month-long celebration of Women in Horror.

You can read more about the anthology (or the players!) at the Deep Cuts Kickstarter page (campaign now closed) or the Deep Cuts Web site. But, of course, I hope you’ll buy Deep Cuts: Mayhem, Menace, & Misery.

The folks over at I Like Horror Movies have posted a review, too. (Rare, that, I think: a book review on a horror movie review site.) I think I more than like “I Like Horror Morvies!”

If you live on the West Coast, there’s a book signing coming up at the end of the month:

Mysterious Galaxy Book store, Redondo Beach Location: Saturday, February 24.

I’ll be there in spirit!

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Writing Prompt: Take Away Their Tools

I had surgery earlier this week. I can’t drive (or walk, for that matter) until at least February 27.

Great! (I thought.) With all the commute time I’ll be saving to work, I can get more writing done.

And then my laptop broke.

I’m stuck using a crappy little mini (I actually used to be fond of) to do my writing. The keyboard is super-tiny, and it’s considered QWERTY, but the apostrophe/double-quote key is in the wrong place. I keep hitting returns when I punctuate my dialogue. (Bad, very bad for a writer.)

It’s slow going.

Like a character in one of my books, I’ve been stymied. (Although I have to admit, I do much worse things to my characters.)

The point is, this is creating some drama in my life (and the lives of the people very close to me) because it starts to spill over.

And life doesn’t stop. I’ve got commitments I need to take care of, so I have to work around the impaired walking and non-driving and crappy tech.

Just like a character.

Here’s Your Prompt

  • In your next scene, make your character work for what he wants or wants to accomplish. Take away something important. Be devious about it: if you don’t want your character driving, don’t just take his license away, make them have foot surgery. 🙂 Make the stakes higher; take away something that not only your character needs, but what others depend on him for.
  • If you journal, write about a time you were stopped in the pursuit of your goals by the loss of something (you missed a deadline, you failed a test, or lost something tangible) and how you worked around it to accomplished your desires. [This should not be a story of “oh, well, it was meant to be” or “I was better off not doing it!”]

Good luck!