Saturday, March 26, 2011

Oxford and fascinating...

Writers love words. I think words are fascinating, anyway; and when the Oxford Dictionary Gods (aka the people who determine every three months what new words are and are not "officially" added to the English language) update the dictionary, interesting things happen.
I just read an AP article, by Jill Lawless. These are the great tidbits I gleaned from it. Enjoy.
The heart shape has been added to the dictionary, and defined as a symbol for love. 
"Ego-surfing" (the practice of searching for your own name on the Internet) has also been added...
And yes, I've done it. Have you?
Then there are the Online abbreviations they've added: OMG, LOL, BFF, and IMHO have all been added (and I'm LMAO about the entire thing!)
And for those young whippersnappers who think they are original, this surprised me:
"Although the new abbreviations are associated with modern electronic communications, some are surprisingly old. The first confirmed use of OMG was in a 1917 letter by a British admiral." 
OMG, right?
And I have to say, this last tidbit is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE:
"muffin top," was added as an official term and means, "a protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers."
I'm going to use "muffin top" in my next novel. Except I'm going to use it to describe a guy's waist...maybe my hero will notice another guy's muffin top...
Or, maybe not.
(as I'm about to push the "publish post" button," I notice Blogger spellcheck has not quite been kept abreast of Oxford's new changes. Hmm)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gross Stuff

     We're skipping the rule thing today because the top of my head is numb and that's where the rules come from. So, were going to talk about icky stuff because that doesn't come from the top of my head.

     Do you do it? Do you describe the stuff that makes it hard to swallow? I'm not talking about bodily functions, though I do some of that and catch hell from my critique partners for it. But, I think they may be right and will be taking some of that out.

     I'm talking about having a character reach into the maggot filled maw of a dead body to retrieve a tooth. Do you give the reader the details? How it feels? Smells? The roiling of the characters stomach? The watering eyes, the retching? Do you give them the experience to the best of your ability?

     I do. Sometimes I get a little queasy and watery-eyed while I write it, but, I still do it. I could argue that it's our duty as writers to accurately report the character's experience, but that's horseapples. The story would not suffer from the lack of detail if I focused on the character's emotional upheaval caused by the doing of the deed. The reader doesn't need to know  what the dead man's tongue felt like but I describe it anyway. I do the icky sticky details and I love it. I do it because I can. Because I'm good at it. Because it's my style.

     Style is a blending of your unique personality, quirky though it may be, and your writing ability. Style evolves over time and number of words written. Your style today may differ with what your style will be twenty years and twenty-million words from now. And who gives a frak. (Sorry, been watching Battlestar Galactica)

     Seriously though, write the things you like to write so your style is really your style. Probably you should try to incorporate things that smart people say you need, but, don't get weird about it. Relax, have fun, think about things people tell you but don't stress. If you think you got good advice, take it, if not, ignore it.

     In the end, it's your story and your style.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Don't Write what you Know...Write What You'd LIKE to Know, and Learn!

I've started a new novel and the heroine is something of a "mole" or "tunnel rat."
 Well... This is something I know nothing about.
The last story I wrote, the heroine was an in-your-face butt-kicking faerie princess. Again, I know very little about being any of those things... Although I do have at least one daughter who is certain she is a real life princess....
And the story before that, the heroine has a pet dragon. Yeah... I wish! Not only do I not own a dragon (my husband while he is on "long-wall move" not considered), but I know nothing about the care and maintenance of the little buggers.
And let's not get started on what little I know about Heroes! (they're male, ergo, not my forte)
I have to "Write What I'd Like to Know" about these things, and set about researching them.
That makes writers some dang good researchers (at least we become that way over time).
I have learned:
There is an amazing place called the "Bone House," or Beinhaus, in Hallstatt, Austria that I absolutely must go see someday! and guess what? It's a sacred place of their loved ones' remains (very similar to the catacombs below Paris, which I did not know about until recently).
There is the Melidoni Cave in Crete where over 300 men, women, and children of a village died of asphyxiation when they went there to hide from the Turkish army, but were found...
The term "Shanghaied" became quite popularly linked to Portland, Oregon (of all places) and there is quite the Urban Legends about the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland that I'm dying to explore (and use in my current book, yes yes!).
And where do I find all of these tidbits of absolutely useless, but fascinating information?
I research in a variety of ways:
The internet (and Wikipedia, Google, AOL search are some of my favorite beginning points)
Non-fiction books (I love picking up books at yard sales, book sales, used book stores, Amazon, libraries)
Travelling (who doesn't love to travel?)
Word of mouth (you would be amazed where the cute little old lady next door went in her day)
Television (there are some great programs on Discover, History Channel)
So, I write about things I'd like to know more about and I learn in the process...


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Holy cow! Nobody blogged for a couple days.

     Alright, I guess I need another rule.

     Remember these are rules I'm coming up with off the top of my head. Don't expect genius, I know I don't.

      This is rule number three only because it's the third rule I've posted here. 

     3.) Kill dogs if you need to. By that I mean, do what you need to and to hell with the content police.

     I have a story where the antagonist is a disturbed young woman. People die, no big deal. She wasn't very likable. She also wasn't three dimensional. (I hate that term. If anyone thinks of a better one, tell me.) 

      So, I killed her favorite dog in spite of the fact that a former critique partner told me, and several others at the table agreed, that one should not kill dogs or horses in fiction. "You will lose many readers if you do," they told me. But, my readers needed to see her grieve for something. Maul's untimely death made her a better, more likable character.(I know the correct term is, sympathetic, but I hate that one too.) I did what I had to.

     We introduce our readers to our characters. We only have a short time to spend investing our readers in the fate of our characters. If the readers don't care, why bother? Do what you have to no matter how distasteful.

     But, do distasteful for distasteful's sake at your own risk.

     Some of the time, perhaps even more often than not, guidelines like, don't kill dogs or horses, make sense. But, I say, if you must, off with their heads.

     Now, just because, my top ten reasons why Labrador Retrievers are better than cats. I specify Labradors because there are some dogs that are not better than cats. But, Labs definitely are. You'll notice I capitalize Labrador Retriever and any shortened version thereof.  That should indicate how I feel about them.

1.)    Labs will hold a treat on their nose almost until you tell them to get it.

2.)    The only thing you need to give a Lab a pill is a  piece of bacon to wrap it in. No gloves are required.

3.)    You can bite a Lab on the ear and it will lick yours while you do.

4.)     Labs come when you call them.

5.)     Labs go lay down when you tell them.

6.)     Labs will alert to that the mail has arrived

7.)     Labs love it when you pull their tail.

8.)     Labs never swear or complain.

9.)     Labs are grateful for their food.

10.)   Labs will sit on your lap as long as you like.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My animals are cranky this morning

But it's not my fault they don't go to bed until I do. And hey, I'm not cranky and I don't get to sleep all day like they do.

I'm not only not cranky, I'm excited. I started a new ms last night. In a new genre. That's why we (the animals and I) were up until three this morning. I'm stoked and in honor of my new ms, I adopted a pet for our blog. See Rosii to the right and down. She will play a big part in my new book.

Granted, I didn't ask my blogging partners if they wanted to a adopt a blue horse, but then I don't usually ask them before I bring home pets in real life either. Hence, the seven creatures gathered around me now...being cranky. Good thing they love me (the people and the pets).

The story is outlined, the setting is set, the movie is running through my head. I'm off to greet the characters. I already love them and they haven't even met me yet.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mike's rule of the day

Hey all you people out there in the blogosphere,

     Why did nobody warn me that a rule a day was a bad idea? Now I have to think up rules because I don't want to use the standard, show don't tell, ground your POV, use adverbs sparingly, etc. so, this is going to get harder as the days become weeks and weeks become months, etc. Who is supposed to be watching me? Sheesh.

     Okay here goes.

2.) Attribute dialog with an action, a thought or an observation.

     I know Stephen King and many others say to use 'he said/she said'. But why pass up an opportunity to show the reader something about the characters mood or motivation or even that he/she is lying. Now, this takes a little more work. But, what the hell, you got someplace to go? You're a writer and a strange gravitational constant keeps pulling you to your writing station. Even on the rare occasions when you reach escape velocity, you think about writing, talk about writing, talk about your WIP. You complain that life keeps intruding on your writing time. You are a writer.

     Okay, here's how it works. If you are in the speaking characters head, give us a thought. Or an action and a thought.

      Devin pursed his lips to keep from smiling. Damned if she wasn't the cutest thing in the universe when she pouted. "I really hate it when you do that. You think you can get me to cave with your sad doe eyes."

     If you are not in the speaking characters head, you're stuck with an observation or action.

     The slightest crinkle of a grin crept up Claudia's face to her eyes as she slumped and turned away. " Well, if you won't do it for my sad face," She glanced at him over her shoulder. " how about my fantastic behind?"

      So, not that difficult and you need not do such involved description. Probably the attribution should not be longer than the actual dialog most of the time.

     He kicked the door. "...
     Damn, her breath stunk. "...
     Vicki stroked the cat;s head. ".....
     Marne pulled the dog's tail. "....

     Still not convinced it can work? Click the 'Mike's Stories tab at the top of the page and read 'The Knights of Naclurita.' Not a 'he said' or 'she said' or anything like it in there.

     Give it a try for a page or two, you can always change it.

     Let me know how it works for you.

     And, Happy St. Patrick's Day, have a green beer for me.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

good grief time, March 2011

OK, here i am trying to be a normal blogger.  giggle, snort, mmmfffff.   I haven't written for over two weeks. I find myself vacillating over rewrites of novel 2 verses beginning the new one titled NION simply because neither is satisfying.  oh, i like novel 2, but it seems i might have 6 months work to do on it before I can begin to assume it's good.  oh well.'

I sent novel 1, No Tribe Of His Own (for sale as an e-book on Amazon) in manuscript form to a friend in Port Orford, the place I lived five years before coming to Colorado.  She has passed it from household to household there, with loving and grand praises popping up all over.  oh well,,, the town has less than 900 population and having a "published" author they knew in person makes an impact.  I'm glad they like it so much.

I think I too will put up on this site a short story about a dragon.  enjoy.

Mike's Stories Tab

Okay everybody, look up.

At the top of this page, not the ceiling.

Got a new tab and it only took a few days to figure out how to do it. Who said blogging was difficult?

As I posted earlier this story goes with the Cowboys and Dragons thing. Not exactly; sheriff not a cowboy, wyvern not a standard dragon and no cafe but blogging is not an exact science. You want Exact? Find a math blog.

Ha, an idea for a blog post.

So, excluding rabid grammarians, most of us would agree, writing is not an exact science. However, there are rules. But those rules can be bent, broken or ignored without consequence if done artfully. Not so with math unless you're dealing with quantum physics.

So, I'm going to give you some rules. Not a top ten list because these are off the top of my head and there may not be ten. We'll call them Mike's Random Rules. In fact, we'll go with Mike's Random Rule of the Day. That will allow discussion on a single rule instead of the comments running willy-nilly every which way causing a quantum meltdown in my hard-drive and head.

Feel free to ignore them if you can do so with style and grace. Or, with attitude if you think I'm full of it.

Mike's Random Rule of the Day

1.) Do not break the fourth wall.

      This is a term from the theater, or theatre, depending on how pretentious you are. It means you should not engage the audience directly. Don't look at them, don't talk to them. The imaginary fourth wall of the set is between you and them. For all practical purposes, they do not exist.

     There are exceptions. The narrator in 'A Christmas Story' talks to the audience. But, most of the time, it's considered bad form and you will be spanked by the director and your fellow actors.


     It pulls them, the audience, out of that hypnotic state where they have suspended disbelief. And that magical state, that journey into make believe where they give over control of their emotions to the actors and crew is why they bought a ticket. Break the fourth wall and you have ruined the experience for them.

      Is it not the same with writing? Do people not buy books to put themselves and their emotions in the hands of the author? If they pay us to take them on a journey, we should do it well and the fourth wall is essential.

     Are there exceptions? Yes. Some books, usually but not always written in first person, cross this line and succeed brilliantly. Most do not, most don't get out there for us to read them.

     But, some do. It is often lamented that famous authors can get away with things we, and by 'we' I mean me and whoever else wishes to include themselves, obscure writers cannot. Stephen King breaks the fourth wall in 'Under The Dome' in a way that throws the reader out of the story and onto the couch with a thump. But, he's Stephen King.

     That's all for today folks.

     Enjoy the story and leave a comment if you like. Think about the fourth wall but don't stew on it too much.


My Granny and writing

My Granny is 96 years old. She is all but blind and has a myriad of physical ailments, causing everything from acute pain to constant discomfort and inconveniences, both large and small. Though I spend every Sunday with her, I wouldn’t know about these ailments if not for my mom. Sometimes from observing Granny, but never because she complains. We talk about family. She tells me stories about when she was a little girl. She talks about her folks, or things my mom did when she was little. The stories I like the best are the ones about Granny and Papa meeting, sparking to each other and marrying. Like when he gave her a diamond ring by leaving it in my uncle’s nappies for her to find. Papa wasn’t much on talking, but he was a romantic.

What Granny doesn’t tell stories about are her ailments. She doesn’t complain. Ever.

Neither is Granny one of those women who could be described as a ‘tough old bird'. My papa worked hard and took care of her. She gave piano lessons, but otherwise didn’t work. She kept house and raised kids, but she also had a hired girl, as they were called all those years ago.

Nope, she wasn’t and isn’t a tough old bird. She wanted to look her best, she cared about what other people thought. She was and is delicate and lady-like. Even today, she worries over strays hairs on her chin. Her hands are and always were soft, her nails manicured, her hair styled.

Not strong and rough. But dedicated. She insists on making the best of any situation. She refuses to be a burden to anyone and she does what she has to do to enjoy what’s left for her in life. I know there are days that it hurts just to keep on living, but she does it. She laughs, she goes out, she entertains. She loves and she accepts love. She blames all of us for keeping her alive this long. She says we make her too happy. That’s her only complaint. She’s dedicated. To life, to family, to happiness.

I’ve inherited a few qualities from Granny, but not all those I’ve listed above. I do my share of complaining. Mike and Marne would have to reluctantly agree if you asked them. I also tend to be obsessive. When it come to certain things, like my writing, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. One would think that a good thing, however, obsessiveness and perfectionism do not equal dedication. I’m hell on revisions. However, ending a story, getting it out there, doing the hard work, that’s what I have trouble with.

One of the things Granny has passed down to me is a love for books. Especially well-written, historical romance novels. We’ve loved them together, we’ve traded them with each other. We’ve discussed authors and stories and winked at each other when others in our family, like my mom and sisters, turned up their noses at the literary deficiencies of our libraries. Granny loved it when I’d pick up one of her books and tell her I’ve met the author at a conference. Or, I had dinner with that one. This one is a member of my writers’ group and this one is actually a pretty good friend of mine.

Granny doesn’t read any more. Her eyes are too bad. That would kill me.

Not her. She pulled her chair closer to the t.v. She has a little peripheral vision. She’s getting a kick out of shows she watched when she was younger. Like Gunsmoke, Little House in the Prairie, the Cartwrights.

Granny has read one of my manuscripts. It was before she lost her sight. She couldn’t hold the big binder in her arthritic hands, so she took the pages out the binder an inch at a time. She liked my story. She said my writing was more mature than many authors. I don't know what that means, but her praise tickles me. ‘Course she is granny.

My goal when I started writing was for her to read a paperback with my name on the cover. That will never happen now, because of her eyes. The sad part is, it’s not because the writing industry is too competitive or because certain agents or editors didn’t realize I was destined to become the next New York Times best seller. It's not even because I'm not a good writer. I am. The reason Granny will never read one of my books is because I’ve failed to learn important lessons from her. I’ve failed to do whatever necessary to make my life what I want it to be.

I want to be like Granny when I grow up. I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m working on it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ready to Add the Rest of our Group

So...Mike, Vicki and I have gotten a (very little) bit of experience with this blog thing. Now it is time to add the rest of our group. We'll get Gail and Susan added to the Admin. in the next few days and our Cafe will be complete...Minus the followers. But if we build, they will come. Right, guys?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Welcome to our Crazy Cafe...

Mike, Vicki, and I are new to this entire "blogging" scene; but it is something we are all pretty excited to be doing together (I hope). It's definitely a learning experience for me already...humbling, too (I'm pretty sure Greek IS easier).
We'll discuss everything from books we've read to the writing craft, our pre-publishing adventures and the joys and pitfalls that go with choosing writing as a career path. I think each one of us is almost "there," (however "there" is defined) and this is the next logical step. But I tell you, it's also a bit scary... putting myself out there for public censor is not top on my list of to-do's.
So, Why (you ask) should you join us on our blog?
Will we have contests? Yes! Most definitely!
At some undisclosed time in the distant future...
Will we have parties? Absolutely!
The kind with all of the best sins and the naughtiest revelry!
Of coarse, they will be virtual parties, so you'll have to use your imagination...
Will there be chocolate?
Heck no! That stuff WILL KILL YOU!
Will we have famous and infamous guest bloggers? Without a doubt!
Although who YOU consider famous and who I do might be a TAD bit different!
But we will (with an ounce of luck and a pound of bribery) have a Great Time!
(and maybe once in a while, for special occasions, we'll have chocolate)
So grab a Latte and let's talk writing!

Day 2

This is going to be a short one as I have to get to poker.

I've decided to put up a short of mine that has cowboys and dragons in it. Well one dragon, a wyvern actually and the narrator is a sheriff not a cowboy but I figure its close enough. The thing is kind of an old west fantasy, not a genre you see very often.

I'll try to figure out how to put it up tomorrow. I saw some thing somewhere about extra pages or some such, I think that's probably the ticket.

Gotta get to poker.
Wish me luck.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Newbie Blogger Alert

Well, I'm finally doing it.....blogggging. Who'd a thunk it?

Many of you will not know me from Robert Jordan, and rightly so as I haven't published anything yet. But I hope to. I will. I am going to. Damn right!

So, why Cowboys and Dragons at the cafe? Well, we're a critique group and we meet at a coffee shop most Thursdays and we write Western Historical Romance, Fantasy Romance and Fantasy among other things. (Bit of a run-on but what the hell, it's a blog.)

So, I reckon I'll be coming here to give insights and snippets and such. I'll try to figure this thing out and get one of my books out so we'll have something to talk about.

By the way, despite slipping into a cowboy accent in the above paragraph, I write Fantasy; lots of cool creatures, magic, some deviant behavior, murder, mayhem, the whole ball of wax.

So, I'll be putting up something, I hope every day but I'm not making any promises. Hope you enjoy it and if you can figure out how, leave a comment. But play nice.