"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Monday, February 28, 2011

Reading Heart and Soul

I’ll be joining some friends Saturday for a long awaited writer’s retreat. In preparation, I’ve been going through some of my writing, trying to decide what I want to bring, work on or have critiqued. I’ve flipped through recently written short stories and nonfiction, thumbed through completed novels collecting dust and came across the first poem I had published in an anthology while I was in high school.

“Secret Admirer”

He does not know my name,
But he knows that I am there.
In his mind’s eye he sees,
A most passionate flare.
As a token of my love,
A single rose have I sent.
I think of him always,
My love can never be spent.
The depth of my feelings,
He will never understand.
Or know that I’ve dreamed,
Of our lives together planned.
He speaks to me sometimes,
And I treasure every word.
His deep voice to others unnerving,
Is the divinest music I’ve heard.
Soon he will be leaving me,
And never again will his love I feel.
His absence I know,
Will pierce my heart like steel.

I’ve written many poems since then, and yes, most of them rhyme. I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare and Tennyson. I enjoy using language to create a rhythm – the original music. I also enjoy A Capella. (If you think that’s not real music check this out!)
Most people, even those who don’t consider themselves writers, have written poetry at some point in their lives. However, there are not nearly as many who read it for enjoyment. Why not? This is the age of flash fiction and music, why is poetry not as popular?
Amy Lowell once said: “Without poetry the soul and heart of man starves and dies…We should read poetry because only in that way can we know man in all his moods -- in the most beautiful thoughts of his heart, in his farthest reaches of imagination, in the tenderness of his love, in the nakedness and awe of his soul confronted with the terror and wonder of the Universe.”
So, how often do you bare your soul through poetry? How often do you examine the heart of another by reading theirs?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Writing Contest Now Closed

Space shuttle Discovery embarked on its final flight today. While I wish those six astronauts a safe and successful mission, the beginning of their journey signals the end of the "Space Tales" writing contest which is now closed.

Thank you to all of the entrants. I am honored to have your interest and support on my blog. I’m looking forward to reading the short stories, poems and nonfiction pieces I have received and will post a winning submission as soon as I’ve evaluated all entries.
I wish you good luck with the contest, as well as success in all your writing endeavors.
In the meantime, what projects are you working to complete?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Technology for the Writer

Tech­nol­ogy can be a blessing and a curse. Some software applications seem to be designed to make our heads hurt. Thankfully, there are some to make life easier for a writer, student or teacher. This technology can aid in research, help cre­ate, and pub­lish poems, plays, nov­els, essays, and short sto­ries. The internet is full of free writ­ing soft­ware, brain­storm­ing tools, out­lin­ing appli­ca­tions, gram­mar guides, and other hi-tech tools designed to make writ­ing ses­sions less com­pli­cated and more pro­duc­tive. Below is a list of 20 such tech tools and resources.
  1. Book Mar­ket­ing Net­work- An online social net­work for authors and publishers.
  2. Book­sie — Writ­ers can use Book­sie to cre­ate and pub­lish nov­els, sto­ries, poems, and other writ­ten works. It allows users to track read­ers, receive and respond to com­ments, build an online pro­file, and com­mu­ni­cate with a fan base.
  3. Duotrope – Free resource site listing more than 3000 fiction and poetry publications. Writers can find a home for their work using a search by genre, style, length, payscale and even response time.
  4. Ever­note- This free note tak­ing sys­tem helps writ­ers out­line, write char­ac­ter notes, or quickly jot down ideas for later use. Ever­note can also be used to clip and share notes on the web.
  5. Glypho- A prac­tice site for writ­ers. Users can jot down a story con­cept, get plot and char­ac­ter ideas from peo­ple around the world, and work with others to cre­ate a col­lab­o­ra­tive novel.
  6. Gram­mar Girl- This pod­cast is per­fect for writ­ers who want to improve their gram­mar and sen­tence struc­ture. Each pod­cast episode fea­tures a sim­ple trick for remem­ber­ing the most pesky gram­mar rules.
  7. Loos­eS­titch- A place for writ­ers to brain­storm, cre­ate out­lines, fine tune ideas, and get feed­back from edi­tors or friends.
  8. Merriam-Webster — America’s fore­most pub­lisher of language-related ref­er­ence mate­ri­als pro­vides one of the best dic­tio­nar­ies and the­sauruses avail­able for free on the web. The site also has other resources writ­ers will enjoy, such as a vocabulary-building word of the day and free word games.
  9. Mind­meis­ter- A free mind map­ping tool that can be used to brain­storm and cre­ate visual outlines.
  10. My Writ­ers Cir­cle- An online forum for writ­ers offering a place to chat, ask ques­tions, find jobs, get cri­tiques, and more.
  11. OpenOf­fice- An open source suite of office tools for writ­ers including a word proces­sor, spread­sheet maker, data­base cre­ator, and more.
  12. Preditors & Editors – Free online guide of publishers. An alphabetical listing of companies that also provides addresses as well as comments on the reliability of the company.
  13. Rough­Draft- A free word proces­sor for writ­ers. Fea­tures include a built-in gram­mar checker, spellchecker, instant back-up, a sim­ple print sys­tem, import­ing capa­bil­i­ties, short­cut keys, a com­pre­hen­sive help sys­tem, and spe­cial modes for plays, screen­plays, nov­els, arti­cles, and short stories.
  14. The Imag­i­na­tion Prompt Gen­er­a­tor- This free gen­er­a­tor for writ­ers prompts the imag­i­na­tion with a start­ing sen­tence, phrase, or idea.
  15. The Story Starter- Features more than 300 mil­lion “first sen­tences,” to help writ­ers get new ideas and writ­ing prompts.
  16. Urban Dic­tio­nary- Unlike most dic­tio­nar­ies, the Urban Dic­tio­nary focuses on defin­ing slang words and terms.
  17. Visu­Words- A graph­i­cal dictionary/thesaurus for peo­ple who love words. It defines words and dis­plays asso­ci­ated words and concepts.
  18. Write­board- A web-based white­board that aids col­lab­o­ra­tive writ­ers. It can be used to col­lab­o­rate on copy and com­pare dif­fer­ent ver­sions of a document.
  19. Writer’s FM- Cre­ated specif­i­cally for writ­ers, this online radio sta­tion broad­casts music, author inter­views, and tips to get published.
  20. yWriter- Designed specif­i­cally for novel writ­ers, this writ­ing soft­ware splits your man­u­script into scenes and chap­ters and has an easy-to-use inter­face. Free to download.
Do you have a favorite technology site or aid not listed?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Thank you, Mask. The Blogger Formerly Known as The Enigmatic, Masked Blogger recently honored me with a Stylish Blogger Award. For those of you who don’t know the rules of accepting this award:

1.)    Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.
2.)    State seven things about yourself.
3.)    Pass the award on to 15 recently discovered great bloggers.

So, again, thank you Mask. Hmm, seven things you might find interesting about me…

1.      I was born in California.

2.      I have also lived in Texas and Louisiana, but only visited 18 other states in the USA - so far.
3.      The only other country I have visited is Mexico. (Unless you count EPCOT’s World Tour ;-) I hope to visit others in the future.
4.      I could live on M&M’s and Diet Root Beer.
5.      Gary Oldman and Johnny Depp are two of my favorite actors.
6.      I’m attracted to strong arms.
7.      The Bible is my favorite book.
Instead of passing this award to 15 specific bloggers (who may or may not have received it before), I invite any of my new blogging friends to accept it by leaving a comment below. They can leave a link back to their own blog, webpage, twitter or facebook accounts.
Happy Writing!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Script Writing Contests

I realize I haven't spent much time blogging about screenplay writing. I taught it for five years, so maybe I needed a break, or maybe I just assumed my readers might not be interested in that topic. Most of the writer's I have interacted with lately are working on a novel, children's book or poetry.

I write for a variety of genres and want to encourage you to try new ones as well. Too many authors feel they must lock into one style and this just isn't so.

"But I write horror novels, what do I know about writing for children?" Well, who better to write a story about the abuse of a child? Monsters real and imagined share common traits.

"Well, I write Sci-fi and kids just can't relate." Do you realize how many children dream about going into space, traveling to new worlds, and meeting new species?

"I write books. I could never write a screenplay or radio theater." Why not? The same concepts apply, the formatting is just different. If you've ever thought about writing a screenplay or radio theater, but don't know how, try a general search in your favorite book store. I used Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler books when I was teaching. You can find an abridged version: http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero's_journey.htm  or use your favorite search engine. Try: http://www.screenwriting.info/

For anyone brave enough to submit a screenplay or radio theater, here are two opportunities:

BABES WITH BLADES SWORD AND PEN CONTEST http://www.babeswithblades.org/competition.htm - There is no entry ree. The feminist theatre company that celebrates women in fighting roles is seeking scripts for production in Spring, 2012. Winner receives $1,000. Seeking full-length (75-120 minutes) scripts that include a depiction of the image "Erinyes" by artist Victoria Szilagyi. Both all-female and mixed-gender casts will be considered, but women must be in most/all primary roles and most/all of the combat scenes. Electronic submissions strongly preferred, but postal mail submissions will be considered. Deadline: February 28, 2011.

INTERNATIONAL RADIO PLAYWRITING COMPETITION http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/arts/2010/10/100728_playcomp_what_its_about.shtml - There is no entry fee. This is a competition for anyone resident outside Britain, to write a 60-minute radio drama for up to six characters. There are two categories: one for writers with English as their first language and one for writers with English as their second language. The two winners will come to London and see their play made into a full radio production, which will then be broadcast on the BBC World Service. They will also each receive a £2,500 prize and there are also prizes for the runners-up. The play must be in English, unpublished and must not have been previously produced in any medium. Whether you're experienced, new, or somewhere in between, we want to hear from you. All scripts submitted must be a minimum of 50 pages. Deadline March 31, 2011.

Good luck and Happy Writing!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

Nicole Ducleroir is hosting a Bernard Pivot Blogfest today. If you are interested in participating, please visit her blog to sign up. There are over 100 people participating.

We're having fun with Pivot's ten questions, made famous in the United States by James Lipton of Inside the Actor's Studio. Blogfest participants have filled out the questionnaire and pasted it with their answers on their blogs today. We are then hopping from blog to blog to read everyone's answers and learn something interesting about our blog friends. Hopeully we'll meet some new people as well. Below are my answers.

1.What is your favorite word? Joy
2.What is your least favorite word? Can’t
3.What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Confidence
4.What turns you off? Arrogance
5.What is your favorite curse word? Damn
6.What sound or noise do you love? My daughters laughing together.
7.What sound or noise do you hate? Alarms
8.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Event Planner
9.What profession would you not like to do? Janitor
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? I’m proud of you.

Bonus not a part of the Pivot questionairre: What book are you currently reading? I'm always reading several books at once. I'm currently rereading Twilight and I just started Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

Thanks for stopping by. Happy Reading!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Loving A Great Character

It's the day of love. I love to read, I love to write, and I have a secret crush!

First, let me announce my “Celebrating the Love” Giveaway winners. Even though we didn’t make it to 66 Followers, I decided to give away two prizes.
1.)    Amazon Gift Card – Fred
2.)    John Grisham’s The Broker – Jess
Congratulations to you both. If you will email me your address, I will get those to you.

Now, smell the beautiful flowers, get out the chocolates and Champagne (diet Root Beer for me) and dish on your secret crushes. I mean those characters from a novel you just can’t forget. I know you have one.
There are so many unforgettable men for me: Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird – possibly the world’s best father and defender of the innocent, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights – we’d all like to believe a man will continue to love us no matter what we do or how long we’ve been deceased, and both Edward Cullen and Jacob Black of the Twilight series (no explanation necessary ;-).
However, if I had to pick just one character from any of the novels I've read, it must be Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice – at first he appears rude, arrogant, and anti-social. Yet we see him struggle with his conscience, emotions and reason. He is in truth a kind and good natured man. Who wouldn’t want to be the one to challenge a man harboring a secret crush on them?

What about you? If you could date/marry any character from a book, who would it be and why?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Show, Don’t Tell

How many times have you been told “Show, Don’t Tell” your audience what’s happening and what your characters are feeling? Many of us don’t know exactly what this means.

You have the power to make people think of something or believe they saw/read something they did not. Let’s try an exercise. Get a piece of paper and something to write with. This will only take a minute or two if you are honest and don’t cheat.

Below is a list of 12 words, you can take just a few seconds to read them to yourself or out loud to someone else. Read them at the same rate you read when you are enjoying a book or magazine article. When you are finished, and without looking back at them, take 30 seconds to write as many of them as you can remember. No cheating! Then, read the paragraph below the list before you check your answers. Ready? Go:

Bed, rest, night, pillow, dream, blanket, alarm, tired, pajamas, yawn, nap, and snore.

Did you get the word Sleep? Sleep is not one of the words, but many will include it in their list because of inferences (making people think or believe something without outright telling them). The average person will only accurately remember about five of them.

This is what authors mean by show, don’t tell. The truth is, a great writer knows how and when to do both: show and tell. When I taught high school, I used this exercise as well as the following one to help students acquaint themselves with details, actions and expressions.

Christopher Vogler, Hollywood screenwriter and author of The Writer’s Journey, suggested this exercise to me called “reverse engineering”. You watch a movie and after each scene stop the video and write what happened. Describe the events, copy dialogue; describe the setting, clothing, characters involved etc.

Whether you are writing a book, short story or screenplay, this is a great way to work on new ways to “show and tell”.

Side note: Don’t forget to enter the giveaway contest in the previous post. You only have a few days left. Happy writing!

Monday, February 7, 2011

“Celebrating the Love” Giveaway

I’ve never posted more than once in a day before, but I wanted to tell you about a giveaway I’m hosting. Valentine’s Day is in a week and I want to celebrate the love we’ve all shared for blogging, reading and writing.
For every 33 (because that’s how old I am) followers on this blog, I’ll give away a prize. Ex. 33 followers = one prize, 66 followers = two prizes, 99 followers = three prizes and so on.  To win:
1.)    Add yourself as a follower if you are not already = one entry.
2.)    Leave a comment telling me which of the prizes listed below you are interested in winning = one entry
3.)    Post an announcement/link to this giveaway on your webpage, blog, twitter, facebook etc. and leave me a link in the comments below = one entry for EACH announcement/link.
4.)    Add a second announcement/link to my “Space Tales” Contest (see the sidebar) on your webpage, blog, twitter, facebook etc. and leave me a link in the comments below = one entry for EACH announcement/link.
5.)    Check back on Valentine’s Day to see if you’ve won!
Isn’t that easy? Good luck!

Possible prizes:
1.)     $25 Amazon Gift Card
2.)      Hardback John Grisham

3.)      Hardback Virginia Woolf

4.)     Hardback Michael Crichton

5.)     Hardback Jude Deveraux

6.)      Hardback Jacki Lyden

7.)     Hardback James Patterson

Trademarked Words in Writing

Did your book’s character play with Silly Putty or modeling clay? Does his father sit in a La-Z-Boy or a reclining chair? Does his mother use Febreze or a fabric deodorizer?
Many of the terms we use are actually trademarked brand names. They have become common household terms we use interchangeably with their generic counterparts.
Trademarked words may not be completely off-limits for writers, but some are legally restricted. Below is a list of 30 words and their generic counterparts. The 30 words on the left are still legally trademarked and cannot be used by competitors. These terms are actively enforced by their trademark owners.

Astro Turf                           Artificial Turf
Band-Aid                            Adhesive Bandage
Bubble Wrap                      Inflated Cushioning
Clorox                                  Bleach
ChapStick                            Lip Balm
Cheez Whiz                        Processed cheese spread
Coke                                      Cola, Soft Drink, Pop, Soda
Crock-Pot                            Slow Cooker
Dumpster                            Front loader waste container
Frisbee                                 Flying Disc
Glad Wrap                           Cling-film
Google                                 Search Engine
Hoover                                 Vacuum Cleaner
Hula Hoop                           Toy Hoop
Jacuzzi                                  Hot Tub
Jeep                                      Compact Sport Utility Vehicle
Jell-O                                     Gelatin, Pudding
Kleenex                                Facial Tissue
Polaroid                               Instant Film
Post-its                                 Sticky Notes
Q-tips                                    Cotton Swabs
Rollerblade                         Inline Skates
Saran Wrap                         Plastic Wrap, Cling Film
Sharpie                                 Permanent Marker
Styrofoam                           Extruded Polystyrene Foam
Taser                                     Electroshock Weapon
Vaseline                               Petroleum Jelly
Velcro                                   Hook-and-Loop Fastener
Windex                                 Glass and Surface Cleaner
Xerox                                    Photocopier

This is only a small sample of trademarks many of us use in a generic connotation. Writing guides such as the AP Stylebook advise writers to "use a generic equivalent unless the trademark is essential to the story."
 If you want a more detailed and up-to-date list of trademarked words and phrases, you can visit the International Trademark Association at www.inta.org.  You can also use Google, I mean an internet search engine to query further examples.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Joyce Carol Oates - On Writing Characters

I often hear writers argue whether plot or characters are more important in writing a book. I believe they are equally valuable.  I'm currently working on a story and while I have a basic plot, I have yet to decide EXACTLY who my characters are going to become. I came across this six minute video by Joyce Carol Oates and thought I would share. I hope you all have a great weekend - Happy Writing!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dulci and New Links

This is my miniature daschund when she was only a few months old. She's not so miniature anymore because she loves to eat and I have two toddlers who love to feed her. Her name is Dulcinea (I'm a Don Quixote fan) - we call her Dulci. She's a great snuggle partner, especially in cold weather like today.

She's been admiring the new buttons/links in my sidebar this week. The first, is a "Writing tip of the day". The second, of course, for the writing contest I'm offering. 

The last is for a Bernard Pivot blogfest hosted by Nicole Ducleroir. I have enjoyed the Pivot questions utilized by James Lipton for many years now. If you've never had the pleasure of hearing Pivot, maybe you've seen the questionairre used on Inside the Actor's Studio.

In the spirit of fun, here are Dulci's answers to those ten famous questions:

1.    What is your favorite word? Food
2.    What is your least favorite word? No
3.    What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Food
4.    What turns you off? No Food
5.    What is your favorite curse word? Bark
6.    What sound or noise do you love? Food hitting my bowl.
7.    What sound or noise do you hate? An empty bowl scraping the floor.
8.    What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Rottweiler guard dog.
9.    What profession would you not like to do? Poodle Show Dog– the haircuts are just wrong!
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? We have an unlimited supply of food here.  

Keep warm and Happy Writing!