Monday, December 26, 2011

Blood and ashes!

My all-time favorite book series is Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time". My brother introduced me to these books about 14 years ago, when my second son was just a toddler and we were renovating and remodeling a little house in the country and living with my in-laws. I was desperate for some good reading escape material, and my brother said to check these out. I had never really been a big reader of fantasy-- still not, really, though I adore "The Hobbit" and all of the "Harry Potter" books. I really only read mysteries and some thrillers. I had read all the "Cat Who..." books to that date by Lillian Jackson Braun, most of Dick Francis and Tony Hillerman's collections, and a handful of random titles. I hadn't really read any series of the scope and extent of Jordan's books. Of course, 14 years ago, there weren't as many of them. I think there were 7... maybe.

So I picked up "The Eye of the World" and after slogging through the completely detached and confusing prologue (I tell new readers to skip it, they won't understand it until later, anyway), began the story of Rand al Thor, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara, along with the various female characters, whose names I struggled to pronounce, even in my head: Moiraine, Nynaeve and Egwene. (I happily report that all these years later, those names are no longer so foreign to me...) I was hooked, instantly and deeply. I adored the first book, and, I devoured the rest as quickly as I could. I remember driving down the streets of Salt Lake City, in my old Toyota Corrolla, with the book in one hand, face down, until the red lights, then I would sneak in a page or two until the light changed and I had to put it down again. That's the only time in my life I've actually been hoping to hit lots of red lights.

In my mind, this set of books sets the standard which all other fantasy series try to live up to. I haven't read many fantasy series, still. I've read the first three of George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" books, but there was a bit too much sex and incest for my taste, so I haven't ever re-read them. I started a couple of books by Terry Brooks and someone who I can't even remember, but wasn't really intrigued. I do love Orson Scott Card, and I've read two fantasy (not Sci-Fi-- that's a whole 'nuther genre, and please don't treat them as though they are the same. They aren't) books by him, "Enchantment" and "The Lost Gate", which are both fantastic books, especially the latter. I've read the LOTR trilogy, by the legendary Tolkein, and I was bemused by his over-descriptions of certain aspects of the scenery. I read those long before reading WOT, and yes, I'm aware that most fantasy books pay homage to Tolkein whether deliberately or unintentionally, but in my mind WOT still sets the standard.

I suppose I need to read more fantasy before making such a bold statement, but most that I start are pale imitations of this great series and I just don't care to waste my time on them.

The only series to come close to the magic and power of the world Jordan created (for me) has been Harry Potter. When I read those books, I wish I could visit at Hogwarts just a little longer. But Jordan's world is so vast, so epic and rings so true, I honestly feel like I'm there. Every now and then, especially when I'm doing a re-read of the books, aspects of WOT will creep into my conversation as though it's a real place. For example, once we were driving to Southern Utah for a vacation in the spring, and we were driving past a dry, arid place with no wildlife growing, and my mouth almost said, "Huh, kind of like the Aiel Waste, don't you think?" What made it out was "Huh..." and then I just grinned...

There are fans that are obsessed with these books, who attend "Jordon Con" and other events; who create costumes and fan art; who write songs and create video dedicated to WOT. I find them amusing, but I don't want to join their ranks. I adore these stories, I feel like I know the characters personally, but I am happily able to separate fantasy from reality.

It's been a long time since I read the entire series. A few years ago, when Brandon Sanderson finished book 12, I listened to it in absolute glee. When book 13 came out, I was in awe. Sanderson has taken the magic of Jordan and made it even better! I would have thought that would be impossible. Sanderson is a wizard. Absolutely amazing. His books are good, and getting better with time, but none of his older stuff is anywhere near as great as WOT. Until now. His "The Way of Kings" is excellent, and I look forward to more of the same. In the meantime, though, WOT reigns supreme and I'm just thrilled to have him at the wheel.

Yesterday, for Christmas, my husband gave me a Kindle Touch. It's nice and a lot of fun. Just for kicks, I downloaded a "sample" of "The Eye of the World", which I haven't read in about 6 years, I think. I can't put it down... If I pace myself, I could read a book a month and be done right about the time that the last book is released next year. But I've never been very good at pacing myself... I read super fast. I'll have to make a concerted effort to savor the stories, to try and keep all the Aes Sedai and Windfinders and nobles and other second- and third-tier characters straight. Maybe I'll finally figure out who Demandred is hiding as. Maybe I'll remember things I've forgotten and notice details that didn't make sense before.

Whatever happens, I'm sure I will enjoy the ride. Again. May you always find water and shade.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Missing Marbles, reposted from my private blog...

I find it moderately interesting and incredibly frustrating to discover that my brain has a very limited capacity for memory, thought, creativity and, especially, energy.  Recently, as I've been training at my new job and trying to learn about four thousand new things, along with all the HR stuff that comes with going full time, I've noticed that I just can't seem to squeeze any time in for writing.  It isn't just time that's lacking, though, it's mental faculty as well.  I have found myself making typos, misspelling words (which really is strange for me), and misspeaking.  A lot. My mouth fumbles with my words, making me look and feel like a nitwit.

Basically, my writing has come to a screeching halt.  Since one successful Monday spent writing a few months ago, I've done nearly nothing!  I've had a few minor blog efforts, only one of which I think actually got posted, but that's it!  I have been busy on my Mondays, and I don't really feel like I can dedicate what little precious "free" time I have to writing right now.  Which is sad, because I still have aspirations to really write something wonderful one day.  I hate that "one day" keeps getting pushed further and further into the future, though.

I'm really hoping that in the next few months things will settle into a routine, or that a miracle will happen so I can go back to part time (or quit?  I love my job, but my first dream job is to be at home with my kiddos and have some writing time each day... not to be negative; librarian is on the list of dream jobs, so I'm enjoying it... don't get me wrong. :) ).

My life is very full, and I'm so thankful for that.  I have remarkable kids and a good husband and a warm home and a soft bed.  Life is good.  I just wish I could remember my Sunday calling before Sunday.

Monday, October 17, 2011


It is my first day off in quite a long time.  I don't count Sundays, because I am busy busy with church and church choir, and I don't count the magical, occasional Saturday because then I am 100% mom, which I love, but it is not relaxing nor restful.  So I took today and washed a little laundry, did a load of dishes and considered taking a nap.  Instead, however, I took a look at one of my favorite blogs, Gail Carson Levine.  She is a published author, who kindly blogs answers to questions from wannabes, like me, and at the bottom of every blog post, she offers a few writing prompts.

Since I couldn't think of anything to write about today, I browsed her prompts until something jumped out at me.  I started writing some ideas and managed to flesh it out into an actual story outline and synopsis. This is the first time I've ever been able to do this-- breakthrough!  I generally write linear stories- I just write until it stops flowing.  This has not been very successful, as evidenced by my 40 or so half-tales that may never get finished.  I am very excited to have a beginning, middle and end in mind for this new story.  I took a scene that Gail suggested and changed it slightly and kazaam!  I have an outline, ready to go.

So, thanks Gail!  I can't wait to see what happens next...

Friday, September 16, 2011

A look back

Posted a while ago, but I would like comments, if you have any.  I still haven't come up with a complete story to go with this scene, yet.  Writing Exercise #2

Deus ex Machina, which I'm still not comfortable pronouncing aloud

I've been pondering a BLOG ENTRY I read a couple of days ago, by an author I haven't actually read yet.  His name is Peter V. Brett.  My sister-in-law recommended his books, beginning with "The Warded Man", and I went to and read the first few pages they have posted as samples.  It is very good, Wheel of Time-ish fantasy.  I think I'll enjoy them when I get my hands on the books.  Anyway, I was reading his blog on, and he was discussing a book by a new-comer that he had been asked to read and comment on (or "blurb") for the back cover.  Read the blog, you'll see what I'm saying.  That other book sounds really good, too... I'll be reading it one day, as well.

In the blog entry, he mentioned that he will pass on "blurbing" new books if he finds literary taboos such as deus ex machina, flat characters or flaws in the story.  This is the second time in a month that I've gone looking for the definition of deus ex machina.  The first time was while watching "Lost", which I chat about in my other blog, found HERE. There is an episode titled "Deus Ex Machina", and I didn't think I had ever heard that Latin phrase before, so I looked it up.  This is what I found on :

De-us ex ma-chi-na
[dey-uh s eks mah-kuh-nuh, dee-uh s eks mak-uh-nuh]
1. (in ancient Greek and Roman drama), a god introduced into a play to resolve the entanglements of the plot.
2. any artificial or improbable device resolving the difficulties of a plot.

1690–1700;  < Neo-Latin  literally, god from a machine (i.e., stage machinery from which a deity's statue was lowered), as translation of Greek apò mēchanês theós  (Demosthenes), theòs ek mēchanês  (Menander), etc.

So, all you fellow would-be authors, keep this in mind as you are writing.  A good example of deus ex machina is how Glinda magically appears (twice!) to save Dorothy's hide in "The Wizard of Oz", first with the snow to wake them in the field of poppies and again at the end to free Dorothy from Oz, by telling her simply to click her heels together and she'll go home.  There are a long list of other cinematic, as well as book and comic examples if you are interested, HERE is a good site.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New blog title and address

A few days ago, I moved my "wanna-be author" blog to this new link and title.  I think it reflects a more positive attitude about my future as a writer to say that "eventually I will be a published author" than to say "I sure wish I was a writer!"

So here we are.  I am trying to wrap my head around a new way of thinking that will open my mind and free my creative juices a bit.  I tend to get a little discouraged when I think about wanting to get something published.  Not because of the intimidation of submitting something to a publishing house (I'm not there, yet, you have to FINISH something before you can submit it, I'm fairly sure!) or because I don't feel like I am skilled enough.  I feel confident in my abilities, and I am a fast learner so if I got to learn from mistakes or bad writing decisions, that would be great.  It's because everywhere I go, constantly, I meet other people who consider themselves yet-to-be-published authors.  Some surprise me, some astound me and others, I'm not surprised, I just have one of those sarcastic voices in my head saying, "everyone's an author", the same way my photographer husband says, "everyone's a photographer...". 

I need to not worry about the sheer volume of manuscripts, books and authors there are out in the market.  I need to not feel competitive about this.  I need to just write for the love of writing and when something gets finished, clean it up, submit it and keep writing.  That's what I need to do.  I can't reduce the number of people (women, mostly, but men, too) who also think they are good enough writers to do it professionally.  I don't have control over when/where or even IF I ever get published, not directly, anyway. But "Failing to try is the same as trying to fail", right?  Right.

I'm trying to accept that there is a lot of competition.  A LOT.  But that's okay.  If what I write is good enough, it won't matter that there are 45 million others like me.  And the main thing is that I love writing.  I just love it.  I need to write for the joy and the mental release and the addiction of writing.  The rest is just gravy, anyway.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just a little exercise...

I think what I'm good at is ambiance, at writing scenes.  I haven't yet figured out how to flesh out a full story from my scenes, though. They pop into my head and flow out my fingers, but then it ends and I'm stuck with about a dozen good story beginnings...

Here's one I wrote recently.  Comments are welcome, in fact, if you can think of a unique story to go along with this scene, share it and we'll collaborate!  I think that's what I need.  I'm good at writing it out, but the "big picture" seems to escape me...  Enjoy! 

It wasn’t raining.  It wasn’t overcast.  It wasn’t even dark.  But it felt like it should be.  I glared up at the cheerful blue sky, scowled at the clouds in their fluffy white perfection and pressed my heels a little deeper into the flawless green grass.  I imagined it whimpering in submission.

“Whump!” the first shovelful of dirt seemed to echo off the coffin.  “Whump!” Again.  Not quite rhythmic, the repeated sound bounced around my head.  It was an ugly sound.  The sound of good-bye.  The sound of emptiness: hollow and howling. 

Cursing the fluttering breeze in the maple leaves over my head, I walked away.  “Whump!” The sound faded slightly as I moved to the other side of the ancient church.  The path I was walking meandered into a grove of trees, where a hill sloped down to a trickling stream.  It couldn’t have been more picturesque.  I hated it.  I hated that the world just moved on, birds flew, rabbits jumped, trees dropped leaves and acorns, completely unfeeling. Their callous indifference surrounded me, suffocating me.  I walked into the glade and cursed, loudly.  I cursed the Earth beneath me, the trees, the sky, I cursed it all, falling to my knees, tears pouring down my cheeks to drip onto my dress.  I cried until I was numb, then lay on the soft Wildgrass and closed my eyes. 

When I awoke, it was dark. Not the oppressive dark that lurked in my chest, but a bright, star-filled summer darkness with a cheerful moon peeking at me between the tree branches.  Grimacing, I stretched, standing.  It was time to leave.  I muttered an apology to the trees, the glade, the glittery heavens for the cursing earlier.  My chest ached, but otherwise I felt better. 

Home was a short walk from the churchyard, and I resisted kicking the cat as I stepped over him lying on the wooden steps.  My father was standing at the kitchen sink, staring out the back window at the darkness.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Asleep at the wheel...

I have not done any writing all summer.  I am loathe to admit that, because I really love it and would even more really love to make a career of it, but (alas, alack!) the summer is nearly over and I haven't written anything but a few blog entries, grocery lists and chore assignments.

Oh, and I know, summer lasts long into September, when the Pagan autumnal equinox rolls around, but my summer lasts from the final day of school to the first day of school, so it will be over in less than 3 weeks.  Gasp!  Not enough time... but... maybe I can start a daily habit of writing for just an hour a day, anything and everything, just writing.  I wonder if I have it in me... I think I do.  I'd like to think it's more than possible, that it's even probable.

21 days to a habit, right?  So for the next 21 days, I could get out of bed at 6:00, exercise, then eat breakfast and hit the laptop.  I could be all done by 8:00, when most of the family is just getting going.  Maybe... I'll have to weigh the benefits of extra sleep with the benefits of habitual writing time... hmm...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Revised Rumpelstiltskin

A readers theater

Miller’s Daughter- Lulu/Queen

Narrator:  Once upon a time and very far away, there lived a Miller and his beautiful daughter.  One day on his way to town, the Miller happened to pass the King in his coach.  Wanting to impress the king, the Miller rode up and spoke to him.

Miller:  Good morning, your majesty!  Might I interest you in my fine corn flour? 

King:  My servants buy my food, Miller, I don’t have time for you.

Miller:  Of course, majesty.  Pardon me, but have you ever seen anyone as beautiful as my daughter?  There she is, standing in yonder field.

Narrator:  The king glanced over and smiled. 

King:  She is lovely, Miller.  Now we must be on our way.

Miller:  She is not only lovely, my King, but she has a secret talent. 

King:  What is that?

Miller:  She can spin straw… into gold!

King:  What?  She can spin straw into gold?  I don’t believe it.

Miller:  It’s true, your highness!  She spins the most beautiful golden thread.  I know your highness has been seeking a beautiful bride, and my daughter would be the most wonderful wife.  And with this talent of hers, she would also make you the richest king in all the land!

Narrator:  The Miller hadn’t really stopped to think about what he was saying.  He was very excited to be speaking to the King, and he really did have a beautiful daughter, but she did not have that magical talent. 

King:  If what you say is true, I will marry your daughter.

Miller:  gulp!

King:  Bring her to my castle this evening and we shall see if she can spin straw into gold.  If she can, she shall be my wife!

Miller: (BOWING) Of course, your majesty.  Of course.

Narrator:  The King rode away and the Miller turned back toward home to speak with his daughter. 

Lulu:  You told the King I could spin straw into gold?  Father, he’ll kill us both when he finds out you lied to him!  Oh what shall I do?

Narrator:  The daughter was frightened and the Miller was too, but they had no choice. She had to go to the castle.  She packed their bags and left home. 

Lulu:  Goodbye, Father. 

Narrator: When she arrived at the castle, she was shown to a little room, filled with straw from the floor to the ceiling.

King:  You have until morning to spin all of this straw into gold.  If you cannot do it, you will be put to death.  If you can do it, though, I will make you my Queen.

Narrator:  The King left Lulu in the room and she heard the door being locked from the outside.

Lulu:  Oh my! (CRYING) What shall I do?  I cannot spin straw into gold!  Boo hoo!  Boo hoo!

Narrator:  Next to the girl suddenly appeared a little old man wearing brightly colored clothes and little shoes that curled upward.  He was the strangest thing Lulu had ever seen.

Rumpelstiltskin:  Good lady tell why
you sob and you cry
The hour it is late
tell me,
what is your fate?

Lulu:  Gasp!  Where did you come from?  Who are you?

Rumpel:  Who I am does not matter
But you I will flatter
If you tell me your tale
I’ll help without fail

Lulu:  Well, you see, my father told the King I could spin straw into gold, and if I don’t do it, I’ll die in the morning and I just don’t know what to do! Boo hoo!

Rumpel:  Magic spinning indeed?
It is me that you need!
I will spin it to gold,
Pure and bright to behold.
What will you give
In order to live?

Lulu:  What about my ring?  It’s very pretty and would look nice on your long, thin fingers.

Rumpel:  Perfect!  We will trade,
A good deal we have made.

Narrator:  Rumpelstiltskin pulled a pile of straw over to the spinning wheel and sat down.  Lulu lay on her cloak and watched the wheel spin and spin, faster and faster, until she fell sound asleep.  In the morning, she woke to hear a rooster crowing and to her amazement, the room was filled, floor to ceiling with shiny golden thread.  The little man was gone.  A smile came to her face as she heard the door being unlocked.

King:  Good morning, Miller’s daughter.  I see you have completed the task!  Come with me, I have another, larger room filled with straw.  If you spin it to gold tonight, I shall let you live to become my Queen!

Narrator:  That night, the King locked Lulu in large room filled floor to ceiling with straw.  Again, Lulu sat down and cried.

Lulu:  Oh, poor me, poor me!  What shall I do?

Rumpel:  More straw to be spun?
I’m here for some fun!
I will spin it to gold,
Pure and bright to behold.
What will you give
In order to live?

Lulu:  What about my necklace?  It came from a land far away across the sea.

Rumpel:  Perfect!  We will trade,
A good deal we have made.

Narrator:  Rumpelstiltskin again spun and spun and Lulu fell asleep.  In the morning, the King came into the room

King:  I see you have spun this straw into gold, even finer than the first!  I will take you to one last room, the biggest room in the castle.  If you can spin all the straw in the room to gold, in the morning, I shall marry you and you will be Queen.  If you cannot, then you will die.

Narrator:  That night, when the King locked Lulu in the room, the little man was waiting for her. 

Lulu:  Oh, little man, will you help me one last time?  If the straw becomes gold tonight, tomorrow I will become Queen!

Rumpel:  More straw to be spun?
I’m here for some fun!
I will spin it to gold,
Pure and bright to behold.
What will you give
In order to live?

Lulu:  Oh, me.  Oh my.  I have nothing left.  I have given you my ring.  I have given you my necklace.  I have no other treasures.  But tomorrow, I will be Queen and I will give you anything you desire.

Rumpel: You have nothing to trade,
No deal can be made.
Your first child you will give
In return, you will live.

Lulu:  Hmm… (TO HERSELF)  Who knows if I will ever have a child? If I don’t promise him, he won’t help me and I will die.  If I help him, I will live and marry a King.  I will worry about the trade when the time comes.  (TO RUMPEL) I agree to your price.  If you will spin for me tonight, I will give you my first child.

Narrator:  That night, Lulu slept again as Rumpel spun, and in the morning, the King kept his promise. Lulu’s father barely had time to get to the castle in time for the wedding.  Years passed and one day, Lulu had a baby.  A beautiful baby.  A baby that she loved very much.  She had forgotten all about the little man.  But he had not forgotten.  One night as she tucked her new baby into his cradle, she heard a little voice behind her.

Rumpel:  Today is the day!
I’ll take him away!
I spun gold so fine,
Now the child will be mine!

Lulu: (CRYING) Oh, dear, oh dear!  I remember you now!  Oh, you mustn’t take my child, for I love him so!  I am Queen and I can give you anything in the kingdom, won’t you take something else? Sob!

Oh how the tears of the lady fair
Touch my heart and make me care.
By and by a game we’ll play,
‘Ere I take the child away.
If my name you can guess
In three days or less,
Your child will stay
And I’ll go away.

Lulu:  Oh, I agree, I agree!  We’ll start right now.  But you must give me three guess each night.

Narrator:  The little man nodded his head and the Queen wiped her eyes and began to think of all the names she had ever known.

Lulu:  Is it Charles? 

Rumpel:  no!

Lulu:  Is it Mortimer?

Rumpel:  no!

Lulu:  Is it Bartholomew?

Rumpel:  (GIGGLING) no!
Once and twice and three times more
My name you’ll try to guess before
At last the game will ended be
And the child will belong to me.

Narrator:  And the little man disappeared.  The Queen immediately sent three of her most trusted servants on horses to the far corners of the land to search out names for her to guess.  The next night, she tried again:

Lulu:  Is it Frederick?

Rumpel:  no!

Lulu:  Is it Alexander?

Rumpel:  no!

Lulu:  Is it Antonio?

Rumpel:  (GIGGLING) no!
Once and twice and three times more
My name you’ll try to guess before
At last the game will ended be
And the child will belong to me.

Narrator: On the third day of searching for names, one of the Queen’s servants came upon a little clearing deep in the darkest forest outside the castle walls.  Quietly, he crept up and discovered a tiny little man, dancing around his campfire, and singing:

Oh la-dee-dah and lucky me
The Queen’s own son I soon will claim.
For no one knows on land or sea
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name!

Narrator:  The servant raced back to the castle to share the good news with the Queen.  The next evening, when the little man appeared, the Queen was ready.

Lulu:  Is your name Boris?

Rumpel:  No!

Lulu:  Is it Humphrey?

Rumpel:  No!

Lulu:  Is it… Rumpelstiltskin?

Rumpel:  (SCREAMS) Aaagh!  How did you know?  Who told you? AAAHHH!!

Narrator:  And the little man turned bright red with rage, stamped and stamped and stamped his feet until the very Earth beneath him opened up and swallowed him whole.  The Queen and King and their little baby lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The White Rabbit

I am living like the white rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland".  Well, sort of.  I don't always feel late, but I do feel like I just have no time...
I'm rushing around from one activity to the next, eyes on my watch.  I wish I could bustle like Mr. Rabbit does.  If I could move that quickly, maybe I create more time in which to write... or read...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ack. I'm stuck

I have the next set of exercises saved in my bookmarks because I can't bring myself to just work on them.  They are much more involved.  Something about creating a new character and filling out a long questionnaire about them, etc.  I don't wanna.  I want to just use the characters I've created already.  Which I should just do, but I'm resistant to doing what the instructions say to do.  There is no instructor, no grading system, so I don't know why I'm so hesitant to just do it the way I want to.  Oy vey. 
I need to get a move on and type.  I'm not entirely sure why I'm procrastinating this lesson.  It's bound to be a very good lesson for me.  I don't know what I will discover, and maybe I'm afraid I will waste time or not like the finished product or something... hmm... okay, okay.  I'll just do it.  Here we go...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Writing exercise #2

These are the instructions for the next exercise.  Please leave me feedback if you think I'm not getting it.  This is a completely random scene I wrote spontaneously for this activity, which they suggested doing about a character very opposite to yourself.  I think a 55-year old hispanic male who sell cigarettes is pretty different from me. :)

Now write a brief character sketch in which you reveal the character's appearance, their feelings about it, and their current circumstances. Use a third-person narrator (‘he’ or ‘she’).
His graying hair hung limply in front of face.  Sweat dripped onto the tip of his rounded nose and his lips pursed in frustration.  If he had been able to move, he would have dabbed it away.  It was 110 degrees and his hands were tied.  Literally.  The bastards had tied them behind his back and taken the money from the register.  Louis shifted uncomfortably on the filthy linoleum floor, trying to see out beneath the counter, but it was no use.  If only he’d stayed in shape.  He’d been a national championship wrestler at Lincoln High.  His bronze skin and dark eyes marked him as different from the other boys, but he’d proven himself.  Now, at 55, he was overweight, cramming himself into his 40-inch waist jeans, muscles gone flaccid on his arms and legs beneath the extra fat.

The robbers left the shop without untying him, of course, laughing and joking with each other.  They’d been young, maybe not more than 20, he was sure, though they’d covered their faces.  He had noticed their solid, muscular arms, the confidence with which they had walked, heard the promise of youth in their voices.  His hands ached.  He slid backwards against the corner of the office doorway behind him and started rubbing the ropes on his wrists against it.  Maybe if he did this long enough he would die of exhaustion.

The air conditioning had given out three days before, and the little cigarette shop in San Luis, New Mexico was sweltering.  If he didn’t get free soon, he would surely pass out from dehydration.  Panting, he pushed harder against the doorframe, sobbing slightly with the effort, as his bulky arms throbbed. 

Suddenly the door opened again with a pathetic, little tinkle from the bell attached to it.  He froze, hope and fear competing for his full attention.  “Hello?” He said, hesitantly.

“Salvador?” The man looking over the counter at him was the last man he wanted to see.  Even the robbers returning to kill him would have been better. 

“Aye, brother.  Do you think you could help me, or were you planning to stand and watch until I faint from the heat?”

Estefan smiled slightly, his little pinched mouth widening beneath the worm of a mustache on his lip.  “Feeling warm, Brother?  You look a little damp.”

He sauntered behind the counter, grinning wider and bending over Sal.  He drew out a shining silver pocketknife, flipped it open, the blade catching the light menacingly, and slid it slowly behind Sal’s back.  Sal closed his eyes, forcing his breathing to slow.  When he opened them, Estefan was turned around, looking into the open register, tsking and shaking his head.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Writing exercise

This is a writing exercise- a short scene with a stereotypical character (in this case, the stern headmaster) and an effort to make him more "round" as in, not flat, but having dimension, making him more sympathetic.  Tell me if you think I'm getting it.  I'm not sure... I had hard time choosing a stereotype to try and change.  This is the "bullying headmaster with a tender, sentimental side" as suggested by the writing course instructions.  I don't know if I got into the tender, sentiment enough, but I'm trying to keep balance.  Without a full story, just a single scene, I wasn't sure how to condense or include enough information... anyway, comment, tell me what you think.

Headmaster Lucas looked down his nose, through his spectacles and sighed as his eyebrows pinched together.  The student before him cowered.  They always did.  He cleared his throat and the child actually jumped!  Sighing again, Lucas folded his hands before him and leaned down, until his nose nearly bumped against the boy’s. 
“Colin.”  He used his ‘stern’ voice.  It was most effective.
“S-sir?” The boy’s voice trembled, as did his hands.  Please, thought Lucas, just don’t let him wet himself.
“Colin, what you did today.  Sneaking into the kitchens after hours. This is forbidden.”  He raised one eyebrow, squeezing his lips together for a moment, trying to decide what to do with the boy.
“I could expel you.”  The boy’s eyes began to tear up, and his lower lip quivered.
“But, I won’t.  You’re a good student and show promise on the cricket field.  No.  I won’t be expelling you.  Pull yourself together.”  The boy sat up, still shaking, but hope gleaming in his dark eyes.
“Instead, I want you to work for three evenings’ detention periods in the kitchens with Mrs. Gregory. You’ll work off the food you pilfered.  Do you understand?”
“Y-yes, sir.” The boy nodded emphatically. His forehead shone with a light sheen of sweat.  Lucas didn’t smile.  He knew the price of becoming friends with the boys too well.  He would hold on to his power here. At all costs.
“You are dismissed, Colin.”
Colin rose and shakily headed to the large oak door. 
“Oh, and Colin?”  The boy turned just his head to look at Lucas, like a little, frightened owl, eyes wide.
“I’ll be wanting you to see Mr. Thomas for discipline tomorrow, as well.”
Mr. Thomas was the one person at Barrington Academy that even frightened Brighton Lucas.  Colin looked about to faint.  Lucas’ stomach clenched, but he held strong. His authority must be absolute.
“Yessir” He whispered, then closed the door behind him.
Lucas sat down again, leaning his head against the high, leather chair back, rubbing his eyes.  He sighed once more, cracked his knuckles and began drafting a memo to Mrs. Gregory.  He knew too well what it felt like to be hungry at night, and he wouldn’t have any of his boys compelled to steal from the kitchens again.  Instead, he would institute evening snacks to be taken before bedtime.  Cheese, bread, and milk, perhaps.  His lips twitched into a small smile.  He might even ask her to let Colin tell the boys about it.  Then he would be looked at as a hero, and might actually make a few friends.  Lucas had been watching him since he arrived three months previous, and his heart ached, watching the skinny lad alone during free hour, wandering beneath the great willows on the South lawn.  It would all come out right, he was sure.

Writing classes

Last year, fall of 2009, I took my first college writing class since deciding I want to WRITE.  It was great, I loved it, especially the poetry unit.  It didn't go deep enough into what I really want to know, though, which is how to write effective fiction.  The other day, I happened across a free online writing course, and I started looking into it tonight.  So far, so good.  I really enjoyed a document about characters.  These are the things it said that made sense to me:
"If you start by building a strong sense of your main character or characters, then add a dilemma, challenge or conflict, you will automatically be generating your plot. Starting the other way around, with a chain of events into which you then fit characters, can often be more difficult and less convincing. Character + Conflict = Plot"
"To show what makes him/her, you must come to a crucial choice that almost breaks and then makes the character.  The make or break decision gives you plot."
"Character is not the part of you that conforms, but rather sticks out."
From someone named Stanley Elkin: "I would never write about someone who is not at the end of his rope."

I think this might have been my problem with the story I forced to finish.  I had these great characters, but I forced them into the plot.  I need to give them more time to develop the conflicts and the story naturally... hmm.. makes me want to go pull out that file and start looking for what I can do to help them along...

Friday, January 28, 2011

I have a friend who has a blog like this as she is working toward becoming a published author.  It inspired me to start one as well.  Thanks, Laura!

I have been writing for a few years now.  One night, about 4 years ago, I just had this thought pop into my head and I sat down at the computer with my headphones in, playing Queen's greatest hits and began typing.  Two years later I finished my first book, working title: "Queen of the Moon".  The first third is good enough to keep.  The rest is garbage.  I pushed myself to write something, but it went in a direction I didn't really care for, and I threw in certain things just for the convenience of finishing the story.  I pushed myself hard to finish something.  But it isn't what I want for those characters, whom I love, and who have haunted me ever since, hanging around my mind and reminding me that I never finished their story.  So I'm trying to get up the motivation to go back and revisit the story, chop and mutilate it, stitch it back together even better, and get moving with my life as a writer.

In the meantime, I have about 10 other "starts".  None of them have gone anywhere. I'm really good at beginning a story, but then I hit that wall where I don't know what to do next.  So I'm working on developing a story before writing it.  I have a very long outline of a story I'm calling "Hobnail and Hook".  So far, so good.  I have the opening scene (I think), and I have a pretty good understanding of what I want for the story.  I just have to sit down and get writing, I suppose... but first I kind of want to work on "Queen of the Moon" again...

What I really need is time.  I am really hoping that having the summer off will grant me what I need to make some real progress.  My sweet husband bought me a laptop for Christmas, which definitely helps.  I can take my stories with me everywhere we go this summer, as well as not having to compete with my children for the family computer.  I'm very excited about that.  I tend to be a much more prolific writer when the house is quiet, though, so summer might be interesting.  Maybe I'll just have to get up before the kids every day, or stay up late nights to write... we'll see.  Maybe next fall I won't have to go to work and I can stay home and work on my ambitions instead!

Another concern is how to organize my chapters, etc.  I've been using Word, but it isn't very easy to flip back and forth and find things and edit in Word.  I've broken up my book in sections-- I have three or so chapters saved in each file.  There HAS to be a better way, though.  I don't want to spend a bunch of money for writing software, but I may just have to...