Friday, December 30th, 2011

Writing Prompt – Hopes and Wishes

Shooting Star - Derivative Work by Thomas GrauWe’re a people who live on hopes and dreams.

We make a wish on a falling star, crack open a fortune cookie with hope, and blow our desires into the wind on dandelion seeds.

It’s like we’ll find any excuse to make a wish:

  • blowing out all the candles on a birthday cake
  • seeing the first star of the night (Star light, Star bright…)
  • tossing coins in a well
  • breaking wish bones
  • when the clasp of your necklace touches the charm (while you’re wearing it)
  • an eyelash that’s fallen out

Let’s make good use of those wishes by writing about what comes from them…

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • You’re walking down the beach and you find an old scotch bottle half-buried in the sand. The cork is in place, and it’s been sealed even further with one of those wire cages used to keep champagne corks in place. On top of the wire is duct tape, making certain that cork never comes out.
    But you can’t help yourself: off comes the tape and the wire, and out comes the cork. A stream of dark blue smoke snakes out of the bottle and solidifies into a genie. He or she is beautiful beyond belief, and in age-old style, offers you three wishes for rescuing him (or her) from the bottle.
    It’s not until after you make the wishes that you find out that the genie is really a demon, and it has it’s own special way of fulfilling your desires…
  • Have you ever wished for something good for you, that might have been detrimental to someone else if it came true? Write what might have happened. Or, use this idea as a springboard for a story: the wish is what starts the trouble…
  • You’re granted a wish where you can choose two of the following: love, health, success or wealth. You’re life will be filled with the opposite of the two you don’t choose. So, if you don’t choose wealth, you will be poor. If you don’t choose health, you will be sickly, etc. Which do you choose? How do you cope with the other?
  • Use the above scenario in a story. Here’s the twist: One character may choose any of the four attributes for himself, but he must bestow the other three (one each) on three of his friends. (None are ‘penalized’ with an opposite of the other gifts.) How does your character make the choices? Does he tell his friends what he’s done? Why or why not? How do these changes affect their relationships?
  • Someone says to you, “I wish you were the President. Things would be a little better around here.” Poof! You’re the president. How would you make things better? How do you rally the House and Senate around you to get things done? What happens if you can’t convince them to see your point of view?
  • Don’t want to fight the House or Senate? Poof! You’re a tyrant, a despot, a dictator, or (simply) the leader of a country with no governmental checks and balances. What beliefs have you built your country on? How is it working? How do you fix things when they aren’t working to your satisfaction?
Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

My Highly Opinionated Gift Suggestions for the Writer in Your Life

Here’s my highly-opinionated view of gift-giving for writers. In case you’re wondering…and even if you’re not.

What Not to Give

Unless your writer friend mentions or asks for any of these things, stay away from:

  • Pens, pencils and writing implements of any kind. The fact is, we either already have enough, or we’ve got a really expensive favorite which you won’t want to spring for.
  • Notebooks, paper, diaries. For the same reasons.
  • “Writer” t-shirts, hats, tote bags, plaques, signs, etc. A teacher acquaintance once referred to these types of gifts for teachers – which usually included depictions of apples – as “crapple,” and the phrase has stuck with me ever since. IMO, items like these are like “crapple” for writers… Don’t do it.
  • The same goes for bookmarks, literary “action figures”, writing-related jewelry, bookends, etc. Um…yeah. Just don’t.
  • Printer paper, ink cartridges, toner or miscellaneous office supplies, and even stamps. These are rudimentary business items required by many writers who actively submit their manuscripts to agents, magazines and publishers.

    Giving these items is like giving a vacuum cleaner to your wife for her birthday. Don’t do it.

Think About Giving:

  • Books. Really. You can’t give a writer too many books…but not just any books. Buy the latest books available in the genre your writer friend specializes in. Writers need to be widely read in their field in order to keep up with trends. It’s impossible to buy all the books published in a given year in a particular category. You can help.
  • A Magazine or Journal Subscription. Ditto above. Get something in the writer’s field. I frankly don’t want a subscription to The New Yorker even though it’s highly respected. Give me Asimov’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog…

    Does your writer friend write poetry or literary fiction? Then a sampling of several different literary magazines might be on target. (It gets expensive ordering copies of litmags just to see if you want to submit.)

    Note: If your writer friend is anywhere beyond the beginning stages of writing, stay away from “how to” magazines such as Writer’s Digest, The Writer and Poets & Writers Magazine. (Unless they ask, of course.) Ditto how-to books.

  • A gift certificate to a book store.
  • An E-reader, like the Kindle, the Kindle Fire or Nook. (There are others… and as with all these suggestions, do your research before purchasing!)
  • A portable hard drive to back up all their manuscripts.
  • A small digital recorder he or she can carry to record story ideas and thoughts.
  • The new Asus Transformer Prime (quad core) tablet with keyboard accessory, available December 19. (To be sure, a gift to be given by a really close friend or perhaps a Husband of Awesome™.)

Gifts that “Go Away”

I’m a big fan of gifts that get consumed (so the house remains uncluttered):

  • Good coffee. (And don’t just go to Starbucks, not everyone — ahem — enjoys their over-roasted, burned up beans.)
  • A nice bottle of wine or spirits.
  • Chocolate. And do make certain it’s fine chocolate. You don’t have to buy a lot when you buy the good stuff: a little goes a long way.
  • A gift certificate for a massage (to help relieve that deadline stress and endless hours sitting at a desk) or for a manicure (because typing is hard on the hands).

Inexpensive Gifts, or Gifts from the Self

Every writer I know can use a little more time in their day to get their writing stuff done. Since the time machine hasn’t been invented yet, you really can’t lengthen their day…but you can give gifts that will save your favorite writer some time.

Of everything mentioned on this list, these are my favorites:

  • Coupons or gift certificates (that you can easily make yourself) for:
    • running to the store to pick up a few things
    • baby sitting or child care (especially useful on deadline days)
    • researching their next project
    • updating their web site (or building a new one)
    • taking digital pictures they can use on their blog or Web site, (or)
    • taking their portrait (every writer needs a good photo for their Web site and book jackets!)

  • Read what they’ve written, and write a thoughtful, honest review at:
    • goodreads
    • library thing
    • shelfari
    • your own blog, or any other review sites you’re familiar with.

  • Help with their marketing by:
    • “friending” them on Facebook, Google and other similar sites
    • following them on Twitter – and re-tweeting their clever and witty tweets
    • “liking”, digging, stumbling upon, +1-ing and “whatever else-ing” their blog posts on all the appropriate social media channels (super mondo bonus points if you go through your writer friend’s entire blog and do this for every appropriate post)
    • “tagging” all their books at
    • adding their blog to your ‘blogroll’
    • linking to their Web site from your own
  • Bake a casserole, make a lasagna or some other kind of “toss it in the oven, crockpot or microwave” meal that can be put together in minutes. If you can’t cook, there are lots of ready to serve items in the grocery store!
  • Better yet: come over and make dinner (and stay. Writers are notorious for spending too much time alone.)

A Final Note

It’s nice that you think of your writer friends, and want to give a gift to highlight that fact, but, writers are people, too. Writing might suck up their entire life, but they’re not all about writing. They have interests outside the written word. (Would you buy your construction-worker friend a new pair of steel-toed boots for Christmas?)

In short: you don’t have to give a writer a gift related to writing.

And if you have no clue: ask! If you’re close enough to give a gift to someone, they’ll appreciate that you want to give them something they’ll like.

Which also means: if you don’t know them well enough to ask, maybe you shouldn’t be buying a gift. That would be like stalking. Ick.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Clive Barker's Birthday CakeWell, not to me…to my site!

Today is the one-year anniversary of the launch.

Isn’t this birthday cake cool?  Dee-London baked it in October for Clive Barker and posted this photo on the Clive Barker Jericho Web site. It’s just a tad bit “darker” than Blood Soup could ever be…but I think it’s better than something creamy, white and generic!