Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Writing Exercise: The Six-Word Thingy

Hemingway was famous for his six-word story: For sale: baby shoes; never worn. I decided to take up the six-word challenge and write some myself. I'm definitely not as eloquent as Hemingway, but I had fun giving it a whirl. Here are some I wrote, but they just don't hit the right emotional chord. I'll keep working on it.

Wife left, jackpot won, hardly treasure.

Procrastinator’s promise: I'll live for tomorrow.

Redeemed souls can always beat cancer.

Abandoned, then adopted, loved today, forevermore.

Amazing grace; how sweet the sound.

Flower salesman got fired, received flowers.

Young boy slew giant with rock.

Gave birth today, wept, popped balloons.

Daughter's suicide was murder via email.

Sleepers, 9/11 was an inside job.

Poison ivy not mentioned in brochure!

Jesus: liar, lunatic, Lord? Resurrection picked.

No brilliance there, but it was a fun creative exercise. Even if you're not much of a writer, you can still spin out a six-word thingy. It's easy, quick and fun. Give it a shot.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Junk Drawer

Well, my entry into the Celebrity Vampire Contest at The Next Big Writer did not win. I figured. We had to write a story about a celebrity being or becoming a vampire or a zombie. My stories are just never what's being sought. My effort has all the things that make a good vampire story, seductiveness, horror, immortality, blood, erotic undertones. I thought I did well and was so glad I created something deeper than dialogue fluff complete with ironic twinges, mostly in tying back to the title, but my fab story is basically junk now. It's not really the kind of thing that can be shopped elsewhere with it being so specific. So, I'll post it here, in a quiet, little display case in cyberspace.

* Not that it matters to anyone on the planet but me, and I don't even know if this has been read by anyone, but I had stripped out 556 words from my original story for another contest and posted that here instead of what I entered in the TNBW contest. But the nip and tuck ruined the quality of the piece I felt, so I'm putting it back the way I had it. The pace was a bit off and missing some beguilement. It's now 11-20 and I'm plunking in my old version at 2556 words instead of 2000.

~ Life in Paris ~

Streams of purple, green and turquoise light replaced red and yellow as the pit DJ’s next song selection pulsed out of the speakers. Even across the noisy, low-lit club and through the crowd of gyrating fools, Stefan drew her attention by simply mouthing her name. His power was stronger than ever because of his need to feed.

Beyond hypnotist, beyond car salesman, beyond Siren, Stefan could seduce with mere thought and beckon the most hardened soul to his, when his thirst was strong enough, like it was tonight. In his 500-and-some-odd-year existence, he’d never spotted anyone, be it royal or vagrant, with more beauty, sparkle and life. He licked his upper lip, anticipating a resurgence of life and the pure taste of her.

In his white, button-down shirt with a black Japanese flower scrolling up the left, he knew he looked sharp and straightened his collar to draw attention, but she never broke eye contact. He had her. With her eyes still locked on his, Stefan timed his steps with the bass as he made his way over to the laughing goddess. Her golden hair changed like a kaleidoscope under the spinning globes and reflected more colors than he could count.

She waved her body like a snake, one charmed to follow his mental choreography and music. He smirked. By the time she knew what was happening to her, it would be too late. He could already hear her gasp of shock and alarm, but he would muzzle her scream with the scarf in his pocket, the silk one he’d picked up at Versace just for her.

“Hi, Gorgeous,” she shouted, clutching his arm and pulling him around two entangled lesbians to stand less than a foot away from her. A mini-dress in hot pink hugged her body in much the way he hoped to. As she flipped her hair over her shoulder, a waft of jasmine, lavender and spice swirled into his nose.

“Hi. I'm Stefan. You’re Paris Hilton, right?” He shook his head, not used to the bangs in his nicely trimmed dark hair.

“Of course. Gonna ask me to dance or what?” He must have hesitated too long for her liking. “I’m used to the cat-got-cher-tongue look, but I can't stand shyness. It’s so not hot.”

He laughed and wrapped his arm around her waist, clamping her against his body. "More to your liking?"

Her eyebrows raised as did the corners of her lips. “Definitely.”

All the closer, he inhaled the fragrance in her hair, now ringing of honeysuckle in its floral bouquet, and moaned as though he’d consumed the richest chocolate. He quickly cleared his throat to cover his involuntary response.

On television and in magazines, he spotted a rare essence in her, one that drove him mad with lust. Passion for her consumed his every waking thought. He stole his way on a private jet and followed her around for days with the slink of a cat, shielded by swarms of paparazzi. Then he muscled his way in here with his aqua eyes, piercing a massive bouncer into compliance. In person, her eyes, combined with her aroma and her body pressed against his in this dirty dance, had him nearly bursting through his jeans and aching to suck her dry.

“Man. You’re smokin’ hot,” he said, trying to match his appearance of twenty-five.

She nodded while batting her lashes, long and faux. “Yeah, I know. You live around here?”

“No,” he yelled as the music picked up. “Just visiting, taking in the sights. I have business to attend to also.”

She leaned toward his ear. “Oh. That’s cool, Stef. I’m in a new movie so I’m too busy to show you around, but if you need help, I have people who do that...for my friends.”

Friends? I'm in! “Yeah. Doesn't surprise me. What’s the name of your movie?”

Dead of Night. I’m playing the head vamp in a, what’s it called, urban fantasy or something like that. I get to kick ass. Is that cool or what?”

Ha! The irony! Stefan burst out laughing, not meaning to do so right in her ear. He bit his lip.

“What’s so funny?” she said, followed by a sneer and narrow eyelids. “Don’t you think I’d make a good, ass-kicking vampire?”

“No. I’m sure you will. It’s just, uh, Hollywood never gets it right. Perception’s so narrow and wrong.”

She shrugged and circled her hand in the air like she was casting off a fly. “Whatever. I guess. I get to fly around on one of those zipping harness thingies.” Her hands shimmied down his back to his butt and she rubbed and squeezed both cheeks. “I like the way you dance. It’s hot.”

“Years of practice.”

She tilted her head and smiled. “I’ll bet. Ya wanna go somewhere to play around some? A place that’s more...private and not so noisy?”

Stefan couldn’t believe his luck. He didn’t even have to coerce her, stare her down or anything. She was asking. Maybe he'd make her like himself instead of taking all of her. They could be eternal companions. Two beautiful people…immortal…absolute perfection.

“Love to, baby,” he said. “This is crazy. I never expected to be talking to Paris Hilton let alone taking off with her. Have a place in mind?”

“We can get a room in the hotel upstairs? They totally love me here.”

“Really? You actually stay somewhere that’s not a Hilton?”

“Ha ha. Ye-es. Very funny.” She elbowed his arm and pointed to the other side of the lounge. "We can leave out the VIP exit. Come on.” She collected her hair in her fist and stripped out static electricity. He longed to lick her palm to catch any sparks. It pained him to lose out on any of her. She laced her fingers around his and appeared to look at their joined hands. “Your hands are so cold.”

He shrugged. “I know. They won’t be for long.”

“Yeah. I’ll warm you up. It's one of my many talents.”

Stefan’s pulse quickened and a dizziness filled his head. Her luscious essence intoxicated him. He couldn’t wait to get her all hot and bothered on a bed on ivory satin or something, then jam that scarf in her mouth only to see those eyes widen in a plea for mercy. Too bad she’d covered those orbs with blue lenses tonight, because the terror in her natural brown would be spectacular.

Paris ushered him to a wall, ran her hand along a seam and did something he couldn’t see. Soon the wall sprung open to reveal a hidden hallway. After they stepped into the low-lit hall, she closed the door behind them and lead him through a labyrinth of flickering, zapping florescence. The music and noise dulled behind him and faded to pulsating thumps.

After reaching the end of a hallway, they climbed an iron staircase and at the top of the landing, she opened another door, which opened directly into a hotel suite through a bookcase.

“Ta da. Welcome to my Princess Suite.”

“Wow. It’s so...perfect.”

“I know, right.” She closed the door.

Stefan had seen his share of palaces and ritzy resorts, and this stood toe-to-toe in elegance. He was right! He nearly cheered in glee. Here it was. A bed of ivory satin. So perfect for love and birth and death. Against golden walls, draperies, linens and furniture cushions gleamed in monochromatic tones of cream and beige. Paintings, vases, flowers and fruit added bursts of color as did a red and gold oriental chandelier over the bed.

He noticed a fruit platter and a bucket of chilled wine on the coffee table near the Victorian couch, which would come in handy if loosening up was needed. The more surrender in the prey, the better the essence. He shook his head in disbelief as she walked him to the bed, which shone like the purest alter for sacrifice.

Paris turned to him, her face so angelic, soft and kind. It held self-assuredness but not a hint of cockiness that jealous girls try to pin on her. "I'm not normally loose or anything, but you're totally sexy and you caught me on a horny night. My boyfriend's out of town. Hope you don't mind."

"No. We can do whatever you want. Just kiss even. I really don't care. Doesn't he mind?"

"Nope. He loves my impulsive streak and is completely understanding. He knows how I get."

Stefan drew her into a kiss and she eagerly opened her mouth for him. He explored her and caressed her tongue with his. She skillfully sucked on his offering, which stirred him to arousal, distracting him from his primary need. With her so eager, Stefan decided to quicken things. He picked her up and half-dropped her on the bed, clumsier than he'd meant to. They laughed and she yanked his head down, reconnecting their mouths, before he even had a chance to lay on top of her. He joined her on the bed and after they kissed in a frenzy of grabbing and groping, she unbuttoned his shirt and ran greedy hands along his chest and fingernails up his back.

Paris complimented him on his muscles and the feel of his skin. She flipped them over and straddled him and kissed his forehead and ears and neck as she unbuttoned and unzipped his denim fly. When her hands wandered in, he gritted his teeth and focused on the funky chandelier, trying to ignore the sensations firing off below his stomach. He had to move now. She was driving him crazy and avoiding his gaze too much.

Stefan slid his hand into his pocket and wave after wave of his fingertips, he gathered and wadded the scarf into a tight ball. He’d switch positions, pin her down and get the job done. He’d gaze into her fake-blue eyes then drink her in until she was clinging to life by a very thin thread. Maybe he’d show her mercy and give her the choice. He wanted to give her the choice. To be or not to be? That is the question of life.

She ripped away his shirt, popping the last two buttons she never bothered to undo. She devoured his chest and neck in wet kisses and bites, some sharper than others. What the hell; no harm in letting her go to town first. He grimaced and winced whenever she seemed to be going for a kill.

After she did figure-eights around his pecks with her tongue, she traveled back up to his neck. He could have sworn sharp teeth not just bit, but drove in, deep, puncturing his flesh. The anguish! He gasped and tried to scream, but his mouth was suddenly jammed with some filthy rag. A rag! Not a $3,000 scarf carefully selected to match a handbag. A rag. A stinky, used rag, drenched in Lemon Pledge.

His mortal cry emitted as a sour note from the distant depths of hell. Pain threatened to burst his head and heart. Breath evaded his flaring nostrils. She was draining him faster than he could regenerate and replenish. He fought to push her off himself, but her strength was unbreakable and he weakened more with each second. His arms felt glued to the bedspread. He clammed his eyes shut as blood burned like scorching fire, racing through and leaving his veins, replaced with an icy chill. She drank not just his life-force but his essence and his supposed immortality. The scent of earth and iron choked him.

A jostle at the door and a solid bang into the wall made him jolt and peek through his heavy lids. Paris pulled away from her task to look, her mouth framed with glorious red. No spectacle or wonder on earth, and he’d seen countless, had ever awed him more than that. He longed to kiss her lips again and taste his own essence mixed with hers. Must be like honey straight from the hive.

“Huuuukkk!” rattled the blond, who'd entered through the actual door. “Finally! I've been looking all over for you...Fabulous! Another one? Thought you said you were good to go for a week or so.”

“Yeah. But he’s a psychic vampire. Unbelievable! Gotta be at least 500, Nic.

Nic? Right. Lionel's anorexic brat.

Paris waved her hand and said, “Do you know how rare one like this is? He’s absorbed so much beauty and energy in his lifetime…only to be a gift for me. The tastiest thing ever. I’m feeling kind of generous. Want some?”

“Hell no! I’d never take your crappy scraps. I was able to snag a sitter. Hurry up, bitch. A bunch of us are going to The Green Door.”

"Kay. Gimme a sec."

Nicole left the suite as noisily as she’d entered.

“Sorry about the interruption, Gorgeous. She really needs to get her own lair. I tell her all the time to knock, but she freakin’ never does! Uuhh! Hate her sometimes.”

He tried to speak but lemony dirt swallowed his one word.

She ungagged his mouth. “What, hun?”

He gasped for hair, his lungs seizing as much as possible. “Question,” he muttered.

“What? I can't hear,” she said with her eyes squinted. She bent down, putting her ear close to his mouth. He stretched his tongue and licked the blood at the corner of her lips.

She jerked away and slapped his chest. “No, no. Uh-uhn, bad boy.”

“Do I get....mercy?”

“Sure, baby. I’m totally sweet like that.” She returned to his neck, taking a fresh bite. He screamed but it exited as a hoarse, girly shrill. His mind zipped back to that day forever ago at age twelve when his uncle showed him the secret of total energy absorption, which would allow him to never get sick, heal rapidly and live forever. Forever? What a joke! His youth spent gathering energy here and there from any passerby had been child's play. He'd waited until the perfect age in adulthood to partake in a total feed, to drain a human of life to prolong and improve his own. He froze. He'd forgotten age. He’d forgotten love. He'd forgotten time, pain and the fear of death. And he felt them all in this moment.

Paris slid off him, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and licked off the blood.

To be or not to be? “Thank...you,” he whispered as she straightened her dress with a shimmy.

“I know, right?" She waved her fingertips and blew him a kiss. "Bye, Gorgeous. That was hot. Thanks for the party.” She flipped open her phone, and after a moment, said, “Jimmy! Need another clean up, but give him ten...Yes! A spectacular feast...No, not that messy. Thanks so much. Mwah. You’re the best.” She sashayed to the door, hips and arms swaying. She looked energized and refreshed, somehow more beautiful than before.

The taste of their mixed essence clung to his tongue like nectar of the gods. The lights went off, the door closed, and darkness engulfed him, signaling his earthly exeunt. He closed his eyes. His body suddenly felt as old as it was. The minimal blood that was still in his decaying shell pooled in his throat and lungs. He was drowning. His skin wrinkled and pulled taught. His bones splintered and snapped, tearing through muscle. He fell and kept falling into some abyss. He couldn’t scream. He wanted to sing and rejoice. On a bed of ivory satin, he lay dying in agony, and he never felt more alive. To be.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's Not to Get???

From the age a person learns language, questions are quick to arise. Questions about life, nature, God, etc. And no matter how old or intelligent you are, there will always remain things that baffle the mind.

Although I love just about every sport with a passion, okay, a borderline obsession, you're sooo right, I’m not a fan of NASCAR. Not in any way. My extended family is huge into it, HUGE, crazy rednecks that they are. They go down to races every year, watch it whenever it’s on, stock up on paraphernalia and Wheaties, and have NASCAR keggers with heaps of buffalo wings and tortilla chips. The way they carry on, you’d think NASCAR drivers were Masters of the Universe or something. I would watch races if my husband were into it, but incidentally, I follow more sports than he does, so I thank the Lord, I don’t have to go there. I understand the burn of a diehard fan. I’m totally diehard for more sports than I care to mention, so I can identify with the craving to see events. But NASCAR on the radio? Really? NASCAR…on the radio. As if it’s not thrilling enough on TV, now you get the Audio Experience. I don’t get it. I mean I listen to contact sports on the radio, though football is a little hard for me to follow with so much going on, but I can’t imagine a race, be it runners, horses, kayaks or cars. On the radio. Can’t you find out the standings on the evening news? It’s not like a sport where a bad play or call matters. It’s a race. A race. On the radio.

I also don’t get why spandex and jelly shoes were ever popular in the 80's, considered wicked stylish even, and why they’re back with a vengeance, invading shopping malls everywhere. That's about the worst synthetic garb you can find. Put them together, and fashion police will be hunting you down, to ticket you for such a faux pas.


Why does every IHOP look like a dutch house? I mean, can't other nationalities be represented too? What's so important about the Dutch?

Why are the New Kids on the Block making a comeback? Sometimes you have to just let the dream die. Bye, Bye, Bye. Oops. Sorry. Wrong band. Really. Give it up.

Why do the rich and famous give their babies hideous names? As if they don't have enough attention already.

Why did Coca Cola think it was a good idea to change the formula for Coke in the first place?

Why on 9-11 was the U. S. military unable to protect the Pentagon, the most guarded air space in the world, after two planes had already struck the World Trade Centers and it was clear we were under attack? Wait. I think I know that one.

Why did David Lee Roth ever think he could make it as a soloist?

Why did Journey ever think they could make it without Steve Perry?

Why is Sid at Comcast's R&D stalling on the remote button issue on the cable box? It's a great idea! Lost remotes are a bane. A simple beep, beep, beep would save aggravation for all mankind.

Why do women think Johnny Depp is hot? Ick. Gabe Kapler now. There's some eye candy.

Why did the ruthless Little House writers hate Mary so? That poor thing. Four eyes. Ruptured appendix. Went blind as a teen. Baby died in a fire. It's difficult to find a character who's suffered more affliction. My heart still breaks for her.

Why are you still reading some freak's blog?

Why did Starbucks get rid of their coconut mocha frapp? Again! Even the brownie one is gone. It's a specialty drink nightmare!!!!

Why is my dad in yet another network marketing company?

Why can I not get a simple Marion Barber shirt?

Why are people on Facebook rude and unfriendly? Out of the thirty or so people I wrote on the fly, some strangers and others whom I knew in the distant, forgettable past, only one wrote me back. No more trying to make friends for me.

Why is Vanilla Coke so hard to find? Oh right. It's only in cans??? Those CC pushers get you hooked so you'll have to buy cans.

Why are pomegranate salesmen not getting MEGA bonuses? They're obviously working overtime. That stuff's in everything now.

Why is there no Red Lobster within 100 miles of me? I hate it. Those buttery herb rolls rock the house. They're the best ever and they've been snatched from me, so why do they keep torturing me with their commercials for all-you-can eat shrimp and crab legs.

Why is Sinbad not being used in more movies? He's soooo funny. Check out Houseguest if you haven't.

Why does my husband continue to root for his losing football team? I don't get it, but that's okay. I just get more in-season perks than he does.

And I don’t get perception, how you can hang a painting by a three-year-old in a museum and have passersby gush in awe when they assume it’s by an esteemed artist. Art is so subjective, but if we can’t tell the difference between preschool art and an impressionistic masterpiece, what does that say of skill or beauty? Doesn’t that dump them into a realm where excellence and technique don’t matter?

Writing is also a subjective art form because readers have different tastes. Some people only consider literary fiction to be worthy enough for their eyes, and perhaps classic literature, but definitely NOT that icky, annoying fiction with a firm plot, that actually moves somewhere rather than simply showing a slice of life or an arc in time.

I cannot imagine telling a story without plot. I need to have a point. Literary fiction, which tends to be more character-driven, has its place, but the most resonating works for me as a reader are those with good plots AND strong characters, which don’t sacrifice one over the other.

I cannot grasp how a writer can write a novel without some force jerking characters into danger or trouble or adventure or romance or galaxy treks. Why is there a belief and air that literary fiction is more sophisticated and excellent than genre or general fiction? A good story is a good story. Sacrificing plot for literary merit and recognition is just writing pretty words and plopping characters into a minimalistic storyline. Spending so much effort on form, strips you of free thought. Everything's all bound up in technique. Passion can get buried under all the glitz. Yes, you can certainly strive to create great literature, but also take time to cut loose. Whether you're a dancer, ice skater, painter or writer, you need to break free sometimes and find a style all your own beyond technique, to touch base with the thrill of the art.

That’s why three-year-olds can produce masterpieces. Such wall-worthy art is born out of pure joy and carefree gusto, and really, it is no less beautiful or sophisticated. Just ask the gushers at the museum or the moms who hang them on the fridge.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

The Big Fix

I have a Red Sox room on the third floor in my house, but it’s not quite the kickin space I want it to be. Sure, we’ve got posters, B pillows, pennants and signs, but we have three televisions up there—one so old it has UHF and VHF dials, haha—and none of them work. Well, one works technically, but if you turn it off, you might not get it to come back on. The TELEVISION is a vital element to any sports room. What’s the point of having a sports room if you can’t, well, watch sports? I suppose we could grab chilled Cokes, pop some popcorn and discuss sports in it, but we can just as easily do that in the kitchen, which we do. So why bother to pack bags and make the long hike?

Since we want a properly functioning electronic device to top off our Red Sox domain, and with it being a sales-tax-free day today, we’re off to buy a new one. We definitely won’t be getting a plasma or anything with HD on the box because we’re not exactly rolling around in an extra 2 grand—or 4 grand if we're talking about the beauty we really want—and even if we were experiencing a windfall, we have two grammar-school-aged sons, who don’t at all grasp the concept of "hands off". We just want a TV that works.

We have all these has-been TVs that used to work well, were probably spectacular in their day, but they’re now headed for the heap...which oddly reminds me of ideas, that can start off great and end up going bust.

Sometimes you think of fantastic ideas. I know I have...just in case you couldn’t tell by my Creativity Gone Wild page.

Here's a jewel: I think all cable boxes should come with a pager button, that way when you lose your remote, you can make it buzz or beep or belch when you need it. Finding that sucker would be sooooo much easier, unless of course, it ended up in the freezer when you went to get that pint of Phish Food. Don’t worry. You’ll find it on your next trip. Comcast wasn’t that impressed with my much-desired concept. At least, I haven’t heard back from R&D, even though Sid PROMISED to get back to me. [Sid: The masses are hungry. Just ask ole Jimmer—who’s now cussin to spin the dead and jerkin up the back of his sinking jeans because he has to stand there and push the arrow on the box 450 times to get to the NFL network—about his thoughts on the matter.] Whatever. Regardless of whether or not they go with my idea, I still think it’s a great one. Needless to say, I don’t have Comcast anymore. I sure showed them.

Anyway, when you dream up and run with a concept that you assume will be astounding, only to find it stopping midstream or not reaching the climax in a powerful way—shut up and be mature :)—here are some things you can do to try to infuse it with life before chucking it into file 13.

Reassess all the goals of every character. All the main characters need goals. Change them up and bend them so your characters have opposing goals, which will create conflict. Conflict is cool. You want that.

Consider working in a subplot and or other genre threads to weave around your main plot. Could you add more suspense, a struggle at work, family drama, a personal issue like insomnia, a love interest, opposition from townies, a paper boy who wants his two dollars?

Perhaps your characters are the sultans of sabotage by being too dull or weak. Go back to your sketches and beef up each one, even for your minor characters, and even if most of those details never grace your pages. Jot down goals, both minor and major, worldviews, upbringing, dreams, demons, attitudes, personalities, quirks, habits, tastes, etc. Adding rounder characters will bring some vitality to your story.

Have scenes that show more and tell less. If you're explaining too much, it's creating drag, so no wonder your story is now stuck in mud.

Strive to make your big idea bigger.

Up the stakes. [That's not only for vampire slayers.]

Do some research on your story concepts. You may get the inspiration you need to take your story in a new direction.

Start over.

Let your character take a wrong turn or have a set back.

On the flip side, look for a character mistake that may have brought your story to a screeching halt. If Kellie was abused for years and years, finds courage and leaves, but later decides to go back to her maniac husband, she'll lose all sympathy with readers. Don’t let your MC wallow in self-pity or sit around doing nothing. No one likes a loser or an inactive blob. Readers want to root for someone. They like characters who try, and keep trying.

Consider adding a new character. Maybe your MC needs a bad influence, a sarcastic best friend, a cheerleader, a Debbie Downer co-worker or a dragon lady boss.

Brainstorm some more set pieces, the important events, moments of discovery or big changes that take place before the climax.

Write the ending then go back to where your story fizzled. Yep. After writing the first two chapters of my book, Kings & Queens, I wrote the last 2. I knew my final outcome exactly, and with a book as twisty and crazy as mine, I wanted to firmly mark that as my endzone to make sure everything headed towards it. Plus, I also wanted to pen it when my inspiration was most vivid. I ended up changing chapter 1 a great deal, but the end chapters remained basically the same, with minor tweaking and polishing.

Examine your story question, which is your throughline, taking readers from A to Z. Did you provide a good question at the onset but then provide the answer in chapter 13 when you have ten more chapters left? Your story should have a main story question that isn’t fully answered until the climax, or even the last sentence. Keep readers turning pages to find out the answer to that burning question.

Perhaps your big idea is as useless and junkyard-ready as my broken TVs, but before giving up, at least see if its worthy of repair. With some reassessment and elbow grease, you could turn trash into treasure. Give it a try and see.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Warring Passions

Yep. I figured it would come to this. I finally had to dish out some tough love on myself. My sports addiction has completely trounced and sacked my motivation to write. My slide into a drought occurred over the span of several months.

Last fall, after a 20-year hiatus, I found Celtics games interesting again and then yanked my basketball teammate from high school, who was a HUGE fan back in the day, along with me to kick off a new era of fandom. So in the spring, with the Celts wrapping up the Losers and sending them back to L.A. in their pretty purple bows and my Red Sox starting the season, aiming for another title, and of course, the NFL draft, with my Cowboys picking up the I-can’t-wait-to-see-him-play Felix Jones, my writing completely fell to the wayside and trickled into the gutter.

Even though it's summer, with there being less to watch, I still find plenty of sporty things to swallow my time. As a goal setter, I religiously wrote every day. And now, I’m lucky if I write once a week…or month even. I’m consumed with all things sports. On Sundays, I’m like, don’t even talk to me. If I can’t find a sport I love on TV, I’ll watch some other sport, like golf. GOLF. I actually watch that on purpose sometimes…and I’m interested in the outcome. What the heck is wrong with me?

I used to joke about being a sports addict, but now I really am. Over the course of three months, I’ve written two chapters, and I’ve drafted an outline and scratched some scenes. I could toss it up to needing a break from my manuscript, but who are we kidding?

So, in order for me to get any work done, I had to get tough with myself and lay down the law. Now, I cannot watch a game, turn on WEEI, check stats or click on my Sons of Sam Horn bookmark until I write, write, write, at least 500 words a day, which is approximately one scene. I gave myself Sundays off. I need to get back to my structured ways so I can stay creatively energized and keep my authorial juices flowing. Even if I don’t work on my novel every day, I need to put paper to pen, or fingers to keys or whatever my medium may be at a given moment, sometimes chalk or crayon, depending. And this blog doesn’t count. Sports needs to be a backburner thing, yeah right, but definitely cannot be the consumer of all my free time. Writing is the passion that needs to win here. Sports is something I love, but writing is what makes me, ME. What crazy distractions get in the way of your writing? Spill.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nutty for NaNo

Okay. I caved to peer pressure. Everyone in my writing circle at The Next Big Writer has decided to jump into the perilous Nano waters. So who am I to not follow other crazy lemmings. We're all super busy working on various projects already, but we're going to put them aside for the mad rush to pen 50,000 words in thirty days.

If you're doing NaNo too, drop me a note on NaNoWriMo at majesticmadness so I can add you as a friend.

So what am I working on in November? Good question. A romantic core engulfed in speculative fiction/urban fantasy would be my guess, but that could change into something even more complex. What else pits a famous starlet against a gypsy...with fairies and other otherworldly creatures in the mix. I'm crazy, but I'll give it a whirl. November is the time for experimentation and going nutty. I'm so ready to jump. Join the madness.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Completely Addicted to Complexity

I've been working on this one scene today that is a sequel after something bad occurs, and so far, my scenes have all ended with tragedy, a definite turn in the plot or a cliffhanger. Every scene needs to be pertinent and forward moving, but I am driven to dig deep and find a major point for this scene beyond what's said in the dialogue. And why? Not because it's needed for the reader but because I need for there to be a major point. It is fine to have a breather scene, many books have them, but my mind can't be satisfied with that. My desire to grab readers by the throat cannot be squelched. Brutal I know, but I'm being honest.

I strive to bring readers on a stomach-turning ride, which incidentally in my latest novel, my characters are also experiencing, with there being at least three instances of regurgitation—vomiting for those not up on euphemisms. But in order for readers to appreciate and feel the rush of the hills, there must be some climbs and low spots now and again. I have such a difficult time letting go of what's complicated and challenging. I love to wrestle and rack my brain and can't seem to follow the road that's simple. But I do need to work on adopting some resolutions during the course, otherwise there is no rush at all and everything becomes dull.

Think of horror movies. The truly effective ones build, build, build, then shock once, maybe twice. But those that have killings throughout lose their punch. They push viewers beyond the threshold of fear and suspense turns off. Then you find people, what? Not cringing or hiding their eyes but laughing. Helpless victims being mutilated becomes comical. Not that you can't feature a serial killer on a rampage, but sometimes the unknown or the stillness where arm hairs raise is more thrilling and chilling.

The writers in my critique circle are all doing a Nano project. I would love to. I've thought about it, but with thirty days, I'm not sure how I could spin out a complex plot. I can't settle down into a linear idea. I could easily write a romance or a more simplistic suspense, but no, I've got this brain that won't quit dipping into the weird and crazy stuff and pulling in a montage of elements.

Am I the only one's who's addicted to twists and complexity, threading in various elements? I hope not. What a lonely trip the descent into danger, madness and uncertainty will be. I'd kind of like some company. I'm more of a people person than a loner. So if you're a freak like me, please identify yourself so we can unite in our quest for darker, weirder, odder realms. Thanks.

Write straight, write curvy, write on.

~Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Taking Drastic Measures to Bait & Hook

Let’s face it. Society has a sadistic bent, a lust to see others in turmoil, from the distant, lion-tearing days of the Colosseum to the present preliminary judging on American Idol, where wannabe singers have their dreams crushed with slashes to the jugular in front of millions of viewers.

Exploit that. If you work in any kind of marketing, you use what hooks. In fiction, the ultimate carrot, that glorious pot of gold, is conflict. Although we usually don’t like to be in the midst of anything bad or ugly ourselves, we do like to read about characters who are and aim to worm their way out of it.

Lack of action and struggle is boring. Yes, a work may be the perfect archetype of great literature if it exposes fascinating characters with beautiful language, but without the family feud that led to tragedy in Romeo and Juliet, the love story would have been forgettable and not worth the ink. The Oddysey would have been akin to I'll Be Home For Christmas with Jonathan Taylor Thomas rather than the epic it was if the journey home had taken ten kinda bumpy hours versus ten years of struggle.

In addition to good conflict, you also need a character who tries and keeps trying. No one wants to read about a victim who doesn’t strive to win. If yours curls up, hides and empties countless boxes of tissues and ice cream and doesn’t move, that wimp will drive your work into the toilet.

I’ve taken turns in my stories that have made me shake, laugh, bellow and cry, even just today while I was writing. Don’t back down from that which seems uncomfortable, perilous, excruciating and impossible. If you throw emotion into the work, heighten the stakes, and build up the adversity, readers will be impacted and hooked.

Conflict is the heart of any good story. And it’s best if it comes from all angles, inside and out. Don’t shy away from nightmares, agony and pressure. If your neck starts to tingle and tears start to fall, that’s good. Readers love when characters are in so much trouble that there seems no way out. So heap it on, dig the hole deep and start burying, leaving him or her with only a drive for self-preservation and a teaspoon. If your conflict and turmoil feels impossible to overcome, that’s what will make your book a page turner, something that can’t be put down. If you want readers who read and keep coming back for more, close the deal. Bait and hook. Go for the throat. Kill the best friend. Kidnap the kid. Make your work riveting. You can do it.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wielding the Inner Sex Goddess

Even if you’re not writing romance or erotica, sometimes works require intimate physical moments and you can’t always close the bedroom doors and present smiling faces and dragon breath in the morning. For some writers, creating love scenes comes naturally and they can easily spare hesitance and shyness, lacking no detail. For others, they’d rather write about battle or economics or get root canal.

I’m not prudish or inhibited and can easily discuss sex or write a steamy scene, but if I need to have a scene in my work, I will always maintain some restraint because I think readers can get my gist without me providing nitty gritty details. I won’t use crudity nor will I throw in scenes just for the sake of having them. If I include physical scenes, kissing and beyond, my intention is never to be offensive or even to tantalize the reader. There’s always a vital reason for something being there, either to show conflict building up or resolving momentarily or to usher in more emotional turmoil.

For instance, in my latest novel, one of my characters seduces a widower who’s a Christian. I have to write some kind of scene—haven't gotten to that part yet—not to show them getting it on, but rather to show the emotional zigzags that occur during the act. Her reason for wanting him is not about arousal; it stems from selfishness and pain. It’s something she feels she needs. And he feels so guilty for falling into temptation and going against his God's will, that in the middle of it, he changes his mind, leaving her in a heap of rubble. They’re both affected by their actions and I have to show that moment so the rest of their love story makes sense and healing and resolution can come to these wounded souls in the end.

If you’re squeamish and need to write a passionate love scene, it’s best if you just go with the flow and write it as raw, heated, terrible, intimate or loving as it comes to you. If you try to juggle your blushing self with your sexy beast and your mom’s opinion and scripture verses, you won’t end up with a very good scene. It’ll be stilted, cheesy, awkward and icky for readers, like watching a virgin trying to score the big one in some 80's flick. Just write the scene. Then, once you have it, you can scale back and tailor it to fit your audience, your convictions and your purpose. Lovey, touchy moments, be they tasteful or spicy, don't have to be so scary. Write on!

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Writing Exercise: A Sudden Sonnet or Something

I've already written a villanelle, which I think came out pretty good because they are so very structured and mine actually made some sense. To find out the form for a villanelle and read my poem, The Chill , click here . I seem to have an addiction to storytelling though because a tale always seems to emerge in my poetry. I tend to choose more straight forward language that's more 'storyesque' versus filling readers' ears with ambiguous earthy crunchy notes with the hope that they get what I'm saying. I have respect for poets who can pull in multiple layers and nuances like that, but I'm just not that skilled.

Since I'm always trying to push myself in unfamiliar directions, I thought I'd stir up the hidden poet in me again and whirl my pen for a sonnet. I included the basic rhyming structure for an English sonnet below in imabic pentameter—simply said, ten beats per line—so if you're equally inspired, you have it handy and can go for a spin yourself.

Here is my effort:

~ Forgotten You ~

(a) Alone on this well-trodden path I stride
(b) I strain for mem’ries I can’t seem to find
(a) Stories of yesterday melted inside
(b) Music fails to play in my cloudy mind
(c) I recall some kisses in pouring rain
(d) And steamy nights in strong arms by the fire
(c) The caresses and hugs I’d think would stain
(d) Are fluttering off like fairies of Ire
(e) I can't just look over and see your eyes
(f) Shadows have swallowed the treasures I’ve known
(e) I can’t seem to find you or hear your voice
(f) Where and who are you, who once was my own
(g) If I could just see you and hold you again
(g) I’d know my last walk would end with a friend

If you're not quite lyrically gifted but are a great storyteller, try giving your work some rigidity like in a sonnet or in a villanelle and find your inner poet. You'll never know whether or not you can do it unless you give it a try.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.