Friday, October 30, 2009

Check It Out .... Weekly Websites

It's all about the writing, people -- at least on this blog it is :-). So, here are a couple of sites full of great and varied information.

The first one I'm directing you to is about all aspects of fiction -- writing better, getting published, promoting and marketing. There are also links to lead you places more specifically geared to your writing genre. So check out ....


And here's one that tells a lot about freelancing -- writing tips, career resources, articles on the latest news in publishing, etc.


And one more site.... the name of it is Cool Stuff for Writers, and the title pretty much explains the content. Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Name That Poet #3

Here is a short contemporary poem. See if you recognize it. Then give us the poet and title if you can. And please check out the link below. Cara Power does a wonderful blog segment on poetry. This week's feature? Why "The Raven" narrated by Vincent Price, of course!

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Congrats to Tina for guessing Carl Sandburg. And the title is "Fog"


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are You Taking Notes?

Take notes. Jot it down. Then study it, absorb it, mull it around awhile. Okay, so what exactly is she talking about, you wonder. I'm speaking of style. When you hear the adage "read a lot, write a lot" you think that's great. You like to read and you like to write. So, that should solve everything. You will become the next Hemingway or be a bestselling author like Dan Brown. Right? Well, maybe you will. More than likely, instead of just reading you are studying. In that respect you really do get a lot out of the author's words, the style, the ability to make you feel what he or she has to say.

Some books on writing will advise you to copy down passage after passage of some work by an author you admire. That's a arduous and daunting task, but there are those who believe the ritual will help you absorb the way the author writes and make it yours. I tend to find a middle ground on this. I suggest whenever you see a word or a turn of a phrase that's clever, jot it down in a notebook so you can study it later. Or maybe it's a particular way a character acts, the words he or she says that catches your eye. Write it or describe it in your notebook.

I always think I'm going to remember what I've read or an idea I've had. I won't write it down and sure enough, it becomes buried, part of the tangled mass of thoughts crowding my mind. Write it down, please.

Then, when you have time to look over your notes, play with the words a bit. First, think and analyze the author's choice of words, the way he or she has put words together. We all want to avoid those overused, trite expressions like "clenching his teeth" or "squinting her eyes". When you see a unique phrasing, something that pops up from the page and you think, how great is that?, it's good to study it.

Next, try using some of those phrases, etc. in your own writing. See if it "fits" you. More than likely this exercise will help you to discover your own variation, a bit of an adjustment here, a little tweak there, and it's yours. Eventually--if you haven't already--you will find your own style. It will be drawn from all your experiences with reading and studying other authors' works. Then, someday, when you have your work published, aspiring authors will be studying you. And how awesome is that?!

Good luck in all you write :-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Check It Out.....Weekly Websites

For those of you who love to read (and most everyone visiting here does) there's a site that gives excerpts from thousands of books. So, if you are inclined to take a peek inside your favorite author's work, check it out. There are all kinds of fun features to the site. And it's a great tool for teachers, too.


Then, for the writer who looks for the quirky, off-the-wall kind of plot ideas, check out this one.


Name That Novel #12

Contemporary Fiction; well-known author and novel. Title and author, if you will.

Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?

The sun has come up and I am sitting by a window that is foggy with the breath of a life gone by. I'm a sight this morning: two shirts, heavy pants, a scarf wrapped twice around my neck and tucked into a thick sweater knitted by my daughter thirty birthdays ago. The thermostat in my room is set as high as it will go, and a smaller space heater sits directly behind me. It clicks and groans and spews hot air like a fairytale dragon, and still my body shivers with a cold that will never go away, a cold that has been eighty years in the making. Eighty years, I think sometimes, and despite my own acceptance of my age, it still amazes me that I haven't been warm since George Bush was president. I wonder if this is how it is for everyone my age.

My life? It isn't easy to explain. It has not been the rip-roaring spectacular I fancied it would be, but neither have I burrowed around with the gophers. I suppose it has most resembled a blue-chip stock: fairly stable, more ups than downs, and gradually trending upward over time. A good buy, a lucky buy, and I've learned that not everyone can say this about his life. But do not be misled. I am nothing special; of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts, and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.

And may the best reader win! :-)

Congrats to JW for answering: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Monday, October 19, 2009

Name That Poet -- #2

I thought the timing would be perfect, with this season of ghosts and goblins and such .... So, let's see what you can do with this poem. Poet's name and title if you know it.

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted
Once a fair and stately palace--
Radient palace--reared it's head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion,
It stood there;
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair.

Banner yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow
(This--all this--was in the olden
Time long ago),
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley
Through two luminous windows saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute's well-tuned law.
Round about a throne where, sitting,
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travelers now within that valley
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh--but smile no more.

Good luck to all!

Congrats to Bendigo! The poet is Edgar Allen Poe with his poem "The Haunted Palace"

Friday, October 16, 2009

Who's An Amateur?!

Amateur versus professional sleuth. It seems the pro has all the advantages -- the tools, the skills, the money for solving the crime. So, why fight it? If you are writing a mystery, is it worth making your hero or heroine tool-less and unskilled? How will he or she overcome all the obstacles to get the bad guy? In my opinion, it's not really all that impossible. After all, there are many amateur or semi-amateur mystery greats floating around out there in fictionland. Some of them are more entertaining because of this status. Of course, most of your hard-boiled crime novels are accompanied by the pros -- detectives, cops, etc. If I wanted to write that kind of book, I would stick with the pro. In any case, here is a list of items to keep in mind, if you plan on using the tool-less and unskilled to solve the crime.

1). Disbelief: why is this guy/gal solving the murder or crime? Shouldn't law enforcement be doing it? Create a situation where he/she has to get involved. Maybe the police have given up on the case. Or perhaps this is a close relative -- spouse, child, etc. -- who is missing. Personal involvement is key. If your amateur sleuth has something invested, something so great he/she can't turn away from it, then it's justified.

2). Weapons: no guns. At least you wouldn't expect the average person to be a sharp shooter, killing off the enemy. So, he/she better rely on wits, and at the moment it's needed, a clever substitute, such as knitting needles or a frying pan or whatever is handy to disarm or disable the opponent.

3). Day Job: Like I said, it's the pro who gets paid. The amateur has to do something for a living ... car salesman, real estate agent, the lady who works in lingerie, whatever pays the bills, but leaves enough time off to snoop around and catch the bad guys.

4). Sub Genre: This really isn't such a bad thing. At least from my point of view, it isn't. That's because I enjoy cozies and any mystery with a heavy dose of humor. Let's face it. Seventy-year-old Aunt Maude, swatting at the thief with her umbrella, is comical. Joe detective popping off the killer with his automatic is not. But using an amateur as your lead does limit you. If it limits you where you want to be, then it's okay. Right?

5). Fiction Fakes: I really don't buy into this. If I did, then I wouldn't enjoy Lord of the Rings with Biblo, Frodo, and the Wizard. Or Superman and Batman. Okay, so those aren't quite aligned with mystery novels, but they all come under the category of fiction. That's right. FICTION. Make believe that's sometimes smattered with factual stuff, stuff that may happen. But when you shake it, turn it upside down and right side up while deciding how unreal the amateur sleuth really is, it still ends up FICTION. And those characters have feelings, they bleed just like the pros do, and they can think, too.

6). Helpful Friends: I thought it would be important to add something about back-up, support, i.e. who's the amateur going to turn to for help? After all, there will be those moments of crisis or need of expert opinion when it's convenient for your sleuth to have friends in the right places. For instance, Stephanie Plum has Morelli (a bonifide law enforcer) and that works just right. In fact, the help doesn't necessarily need to be human. Perhaps help comes from the spirit world or maybe your sleuth has special powers, being psychic for instance. Whatever the case, it makes sense to give your character some kind of back-up.

Okay, there you have it. Hope you enjoyed. If you want to read more, check out Writing Mysteries edited by Sue Grafton. It's full of wonderful information for those who enjoy the mystery genre. If you have any additional comments, drop a line. We'd love to hear.

Check It Out ... Weekly Websites

Since I seem to spend SO much time cruising the internet, I decided to share some of the goodies in case any of you might find it useful. :-) Here is an article from Writing World about marketing tips. If you decide to take a peek, let us know what you think. Or maybe you have some ideas of your own you wouldn't mind sharing.


And here is one that is just plain fun. I discovered it recently when checking out my fellow blogspot members. It offers colorful backgrounds to add to your blog page.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tips on the Short of It

I mentioned in an earlier post (9/27) that I would follow up with tips on short story writing. And here we go ...

When writing a short you want to keep one major thought in mind -- be concise. You have just so many words to tell your tale. You have characters, plot and setting competing with one another. Every word must count, must be relevant. So, be concise. To be honest, with character, plot and setting competing, one of them is going to suffer, and it's usually character. So ...

Characters are easier to develop when they are part of a series, and maybe you are now writing story number 2 or 3 or whatever number. Perhaps you've already established who he or she is, what that person does. etc. However, when this is not a series, you've got a challenge ahead of you. Best advice I can give is to:

1) Leave some mystery to the character(s), but drop in a few bits for incite. Just enough though, whatever is relevant to the story. It could be a childhood memory or traumatic event that gives him or her the reason to react in a certain way in the present. You can do this by flashback, such as in dialog. (See previous post, 8/22)

2) Limit the number of characters in your story. The logic of this should be evident: more characters means more words to describe them, to give them something to do in the story, etc.

Also, if you want to keep your story focused and concise, have the plot flow from the main character as it relates to who the character is. There is just a natural progression to a detective needing a mystery to solve; a teacher who has a problem with a student; a doctor with a dying patient or drug abuse problem. See where I'm going with this? The story's plot "fits" the character and who he/she is. The problem naturally generates from him/her.

Another thing to keep in mind is narrowing your setting and time. Your story should be in a very short time frame -- hours, maybe a day or two at most. (Not counting relevant flashbacks) Place it in one room or a house or apartment, maybe a neighborhood or school. Think of your story as looking through a small hole in the wall. Narrow your scope to focus on the theme, the point of your story, and stay there. Don't venture outside the boundaries of your yard!

The bottom line is that you want to write a story in a certain amount of words, but with enough detail to be complete. Not an easy task. One last piece of advice: if you feel like you don't want the story to end when you've finished, i.e. it feels like there should be more to happen, then maybe it's novel material and not a short. You'll have to decide. You should know your characters and your story better than anybody, but if you're really stuck, it doesn't hurt to get another person's opinion -- from a writers' group or online at such websites as or someone you think can read with constructive criticism.

Good luck to all of you. Now, go and write a great short story!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Name That Poet --- #1

I thought I'd mix it up a bit. So, here is a poem for you to ponder. If you can, name the poet, and as a plus.... the title of the poem.

my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent

war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting

my sister

isabel created hundreds
hundreds) of socks not to
mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

etcetera wristers etcetera, my
mother hoped that

i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my

self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

cetera, of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

good luck to all of you!

And the winners are ...... Cara and JW with the answer: e. e. Cummings and "My Sweet Old Etcetera"
Congrats to you both. And if you want, take a winner button with you to place on your site.