Sunday, April 23, 2017

View from the Inside

This week I have to do it. I have to move my desk around so I can look outside. The way I face now is directly at my bookshelves, which is rather uninteresting. Now, since I have decent peripheral vision, my attention is drawn to the right where the TV hangs on the wall. I always see movement out of the corner of my eye. What I should do, of course, is turn off the bleeping thing. But I need something to look at when I'm not looking at my laptop screen. When I'm in thinking mode. So, this week. Turn the desk around so I can see outside.

Yes, I'm rambling. It's been some time, since March 8th, since I've penned a post, and the pipes are rusty. But I'm writing.

It's spring, so stuff is blooming, and there are yellow and green things growing outside. Some white things, too. Don't know what most of them are called. But I want to look at them. Also, we have a monster of a fountain which we've turned into a miniature garden. Keeping watch over the plants are a lamb, a Thai goddess (at least I think she's Thai), a gnome, and a rabbit. Used to have a gargoyle, but he broke. The four remaining watchers are concrete. They don't move much. At least not while I'm watching them. So, I guess I'm watching the watchers.

Keep writing, friends. And try to avoid doing what I did, which is to take too long of a break from writing.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

...I Want to Bang on the Drum All Day...

Hear that beat? It's everywhere. Our hearts bang it out. Slow, steady, insistent. Or perhaps fast, quick-stepping. Like the sound of...ramming speed! Or perhaps so fast they'll explode.

Rhythm surrounds us. We were born into it. Likewise, there is a cadence to words. Let's look at a few examples.

One of my favorites is Star Wars. Just the title. It's a simple drum beat. Ba bum! And it drills into you, never letting you forget.

Then there's a sentence I love, the first sentence in Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five". "I have come unstuck in time." Say that sentence aloud, and listen to its rhythm. Da da DAH da DAH da dah, with a downbeat on the word 'time'.

And that's the takeaway. Writing (and reading) doesn't deal with just flat words, entering our bodies visually. We hear the words, as well. So, as writers, when we're editing, we need to read our work aloud. If not to other folks, as in a critique group, then to ourselves. And hear the drum beat.

Keep writing, friends.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Bad Guy or Good Guy...Hmmm...

Hard to tell sometimes.

Growing up, we always thought good guys had the white hats, bad guys wore black, right? And the good guys did good stuff, while the bad guys did really bad things.

Uhhhh, well....

Our good guys (translation: do-gooders, heroes, champions) and bad guys (translation: evildoers, villains, malefactors) in our writing share differences, but they also share similarities. They have to or they're not interesting. A pure good guy is boring, and a pure bad guy is just not believable. Let's take a look under the hood.

Good guys always do good stuff, right?

I watched a Star Trek episode recently where the distinct life forces of an extinct civilization had taken over one of the crew members. Kirk's solution: place the crew member in a pressure chamber and crank up the pressure until all the life forces were destroyed. Basically, he committed genocide. And Kirk's one of the good guys, right?

Another example: Superman, the ultimate Boy Scout, in the second Superman movie with Christopher Reeve, has no trouble eliminating Zod, Ursa, and Non. Didn't give it a second thought. No attempt at returning them to the phantom zone, just poof!

Now, the flip side. One of everyone's favorite bad guys, Darth Vader, Mr. All-In-Black himself. Evildoer, right? Killed children, women, pretty much anyone. But he started out with great promise, as a good guy. Followed the wrong path for a while. But in the end, who saves the day by destroying (we think) the Emperor? Darth.

So, a couple of things to remember. When creating your bad guys and good guys, they're not pure. Shouldn't be. Your good guys should have some darkness in them. Makes them interesting. And your bad guys will do some good stuff occasionally. And sometimes, they might just flip sides. It all depends on perspective.

Now, go forth and think about other good/bad guys you've read about or watched on the screen.

I command it.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I Need is Writer Oil

The undisciplined writer, that's what I am. Well, I figure you can guess that from the infrequency of my posts of late. Been busy with life lately.

Now, I know that's no excuse. Especially when I read about other writers' routines. "I'm up at 5 AM every day, dress, work out, have a cup of something, then write until noon." But then there's the rest of us. Folks woulda coulda shoulda done that, but just slam down a few words when we can. It's not so much a writer's block as inertia. A matter of stuckness, like that old faucet on the side of the house that just won't turn off in the spring. Writer's oil, that's what's needed. Note to self: save that idea of writer's oil. Never know when it'll come in handy.

Anyway, I'm back, trying to get the machinery moving again. Also in the final phases, I hope, of edits on my novel. People ask me, "When are you gonna finish that thing?" Well, when I'm ready. Being waylaid for a bit, I need a final running start (or running finish) at it. It's my flagship and I want it as good as it can possibly be.

Aaahhh, this feels better, pounding the keys after a hiatus. Afore I head out, I'll leave you with this live action example of proofing your work with your eyeballs, not just your word processor's spell-a-matic. I saw this on the web site of a major organization today. Here's an excerpt. I won't divulge the organization's name:

Work & Jobs
Your Fired. Now What?
8 things to do before handing over your employee ID

What, exactly, is my 'fired'? If they had visually inspected it, they would've seen they needed "You're", not "Your". I engage in word play, but I don't think that's what happened. Oops.

Keep writing, friends. Even if your undisciplined. Catch that?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Little Ol' Martian Potato Farmer Me

I've been reading Andy Weir's book "The Martian", and am a little over halfway through. I've been reading a lot more lately during the winter, willingly giving up a lot of TV for the pleasure of a good book. Let's see, starting back in October or a little earlier, I read "The Sword in the Stone", wonderful book about the young King Arthur before he was a king Next came "The Once and Future King". I was a true Arthurian junkie at this point. Then I had to read "The Book of Merlyn", because Mr. White really left me hanging at the end of "The Once and Future King".

Read Ian Fleming's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" next. Yes, Mr. "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" wrote a smashing good children's book. Then, since I was apparently on a British kick, I read "Mary Poppins". Got to say, I like the movie version a little better. Mary was just plain mean in the book.

So, back to "The Martian". Written in first-person style, this is a rockin' good read. This is Mr. Weir's first novel and I look forward to what else might come from his pen. He starts right off, Bang!, into the action, and it had to be told first-person. I like the character of Mark Watney. He's tough, with a good sense of humor, sometimes a gallows sense of humor, that really helps him survive.

One thing I've noticed that I like, is that as Mark goes through his day-to-day survival, his log entries subtly show how he's becoming more and more of a Martian. Oh, I don't mean he's turning green with tentacles and a third eye. Actually, the correct term would be colonist. He's becoming a colonist. When he goes on missions away from the Hab (where he lives) that last for several sols (Martian days), he says sols instead of days with a comfortable familiarity. Like when we would say, "So many days ago, I...", Mark would say, "So many sols ago, I..." All very casual.

And, when he's been on one of his outings, he talks about being glad to get home. Not home as on Earth, but home as in his Hab. It's becoming home to him.

Yep, I'm looking forward to more work from Mr. Andy Weir. A tip o' th' astronaut helmet to him for making this read feel natural. Now, I have to finish reading it so I can get Mark home, uh, back to Earth...

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Duping Our Readers (But in a Good Way)

Strange that it was a TV ad that gave me this idea. And a cheesy ad at that. But it stuck. Anyway, I was watching MeTV the other night (which was begotten from TV Land, which was begotten from Nick at Nite, which was begotten from Nickelodeon, as far as classic TV goes), when a commercial popped on for a way to receive free TV on your TV set (do they even call them TV sets anymore? Showing my age here). Just a little larger than a thumb drive, it plugs either into the TV's cable connection or USB port, I couldn't tell which.

Now, here's the deal. Of course, they show lots of happy folks plugging that little rascal in, and they're all happy, watching these beautifully rendered shows. And they've given it a catchy name--FreeTVKey--but it's just a tiny little digital antenna, folks. And I'm betting it's not going to get good reception unless you're sitting right on top of a broadcast station.

But it got me thinking. Look what they did there. They used the word 'free' (we all want something for free, right?), along with the word 'key' to form an association. A powerful association. Remember, that words are potent little building blocks, and certain words carry strong connotations. Like 'free' and 'key'. So, let's play around here. In this era when there's more cable cutting, we'd all like to be 'free' of our shackles to the cable companies, right? What 'unlocks' shackles? A 'key'.

Perhaps I'm stretching things to make a point, but you get the idea. As writers, word choice is important. Which words work best together? How can I keep my readers on the edge of their seats? How do I keep them turning the page to find out what's around the...

Uh huh. You get the idea. Now, to clarify, when I used the word 'duping' in my title, that's an emotionally-charged word. And no one wants to feel duped. But as writers (and readers) we do want suspense...tension...then release...then...

But, wait! There's more...

For a few other posts on word play, click on these links:

 Keep writing, friends.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Orryvoyer, King Arthur

Or, in other words, au revoir. So says the little hedgehog to King Arthur on the eve of the last battle in "The Book of Merlyn", the final chapter of the Arthurian saga by T. H. White.

There is an excitement, also a sense of loss, anticipating the end of a book, whether it be a book we read or a book we write. I experienced both as I neared the completion of my manuscript (which I hopefully will complete edits on soon). I also experienced those same feelings as I neared the end of "The Book of Merlyn". And so, we stall, we delay, nearing the end.

I just finished reading the book last night, feeling both happy and sad; and frightened and courageous. Reading "The Sword in the Stone", then "The Once and Future King", and finally "The Book of Merlyn" was one of those rare events where I completely slipped into Arthur's world. I watched him go from the young Wart to the full embodiment of England. So I wish to take this opportunity to thank and salute Mr. T. H. White for taking me along on this grand adventure. I say goodbye to Mr. White, and Arthur, Guenever, Lance, and King Pellinore; the animals that Arthur spent time with and learned from; and even poor, confused Mordred. The wonderful thing about this tale is that I carry all of them with me now. And whenever I wish to visit them again, I have only to open a book.

And, as without readers there would be no need for writers, I say...

Keep writing, friends. And reading.