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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

Challenge: Compose a letter of thanks to a soldier you do not know or donate books to the troops. For more ideas on how you can help: http://www.give2thetroops.org/

Saturday, May 28, 2011

1000 Word Contest Deadline

Tomorrow is the last day to take part in the "1000 Words" contest. I will accept submissions as long as they are dated by May 29.
Thank you to all of the entrants so far. I am honored to have your interest and support on my blog. Remember, I will post a winning submission by June 6, 2011.
I wish you the best of luck with the contest, as well as success in all your writing endeavors. I'm enjoying some time with family and friends. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend.
In the meantime, what projects are you working to complete?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Author Interview: Bret Jordan

I had the pleasure of meeting Bret Jordan a year ago. After reading four of his stories, I must classify him as a talented horror and fantasy writer. I find myself worrying about and empathizing with his characters long after the real world has forced me to put his work aside.
His newest book Plague has just been released as an ebook by Purple Sword Publishing and is set to be released in print soon. There will be some illustrations in the paperback that aren't on the ebook version.
Bret Jordan grew up in Pasadena, Texas and moved to Lumberton while still attending junior high. He later met and married a girl from Vidor. Twenty years later they are raising their four daughters there. For more information, visit Bret’s website at http://www.bretjordan.com/ , his blog at http://bretjordan.wordpress.com/ or you can find him on Facebook.

Below is a short interview with Bret and a sneak peek at "Alone in the Mist”, soon to be published by Dopamalovi Books.

1) How did you develop an interest in writing?
    Writing is something I've wanted to do since I learned to read - wanted to, but never really did. Instead I played Dungeons and Dragons, but it was never as fulfilling as I wanted it to be. I didn't really like playing a character, I always wanted to be the guy who made up the adventures. Little did I know this was a way to vent my imagination in the narrative format that  I really wanted. It didn't occur to me that I was actually trying to write stories until I created a detailed background for a dwarf character. I got into it like I never had while writing adventures and it struck me that this was what I really wanted to do. Writing adventures was okay, but writing stories is what my heart really desired. At that point I began writing and I have never looked back.

2) I see you are working on a MS - please tell me a little about it - Title, genre, how you got the idea etc.
    My first novel , "Plague", was just published as an ebook a week ago. It is the first book of a trilogy. With the first book completed and presented to the public I decided to start the second novel of the series. The first book taught me a great deal about writing so I have really been looking forward to getting into this second novel. The title is still tentative, but I'm thinking something along the lines of "Plague: The Dragon God". It is a dark fantasy about a zombie horde being unleashed upon a medieval world. It's a fantasy world with dwarves, elves, dragons, magic, swords, sorcery...well, you get the idea. I began the story because I have read several zombie books, but they are all contemporary. Most have some unique twist, but none that I have read have ever been done with a fantasy backdrop so I started thinking and a couple of years later had the first completed manuscript in my hand and ready for a publisher. The first book dealt mainly with humans trying to escape an infected city. I didn't really introduce any new races and relied more upon magic and medieval weaponry. The second book will set my characters into the wilds of a fantasy world where the reader will be introduced to a great deal of fantasy elements that I hope they find enchanting and mysterious.

3) What other styles do you write - genre novels, poetry, articles, memoirs etc.
    My first forays into writing were for horror anthologies. I've written stories about ghosts, man eating plants, gremlins and dryads. I would love to try my hand at steampunk, but I have several other projects lined up before I follow my muse there.

4) Is this a hobby or do you plan to make a career from writing?
    At the moment I see what I do as a hobby. I would love for it to grow into a career, for I would love to be a full time writer, but for now I have a day job and my writing is simply something that I love to do. I just enjoy writing, so I will be happy if I only do it as a hobby for the rest of my life, but earning a living at it would be my dream job.

5) What authors do you admire?
    Can I say all of them? How about if I just stick to one per genre? I suppose my first pick would be Tolkien. Like many readers of fantasy, The Hobbit was one of the first books I ever picked up, so I can thank Mr. Tolkien for starting me on this path. Terry Brooks would be my second choice in fantasy authors because The Sword of Shannara is another childhood tale that I have loved and has stuck with me over the years. In the category of Science Fiction Frank Herbert would probably rise to the top of the pile with his intricate Dune universe. Richard Matheson rises to the top of my horror list because I absolutely loved I am Legend. And finally, because if I don't say "and finally" this list could turn into a book, I will throw in Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn is another favorite that oddly enough I didn't read until last year. The man had a unique writing style that is a true pleasure to read.

6) What do you do when you have writer's block?
    Writer's block usually happens to me when I get to a point in the story that I lose interest in. It stifles the old creative juices and prevents me from moving forward. When that happens I back off and think. I think for a week or two. I look carefully at all of my characters and the things about them that interests me. I dwell on what is happening in the bogged down scene and contemplate ways that will draw my interest back into it, and hopefully make it more interesting for the reader. When the spark returns and I have a solid idea of what I want I sit back in front of my computer and work through the story with renewed interest.

7) How long did it take you to write your current MS?
    Plague took about three years to write. There were a lot of short stories in between, but from the time I started until the time that I wrote "The End" was about three years. Being my first novel I learned a lot in those three years and did a lot of rewriting, but I'm proud of the outcome.

8) When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing?
    My first few years of writing I would make the stories up as they came to me, and I can still do that on short stories, but I have to outline the longer ones. It's the only way I can know where the story came from and where it is going. It also helps me to keep my facts straight and it helps my stories to flow. Most importantly, it keeps me from getting the dreaded writer's block.

9) What is your writing process like? Certain hours that you find more productive, a routine, a set amount of time or a number of pages you make yourself write everyday etc.
    I don't really have much of a process, but I do spend about twice as much time thinking about a story than I do writing one. I might spend a month contemplating several aspects of an idea before I begin writing, and I usually have a pile of notes to remind me of those ideas that slip through the cracks. I also need complete silence to write. I am easily distracted and any noise will break my concentration so most of my writing time is spent in my office when everyone is asleep, or gone from the house.

10) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us?
    This is the opening scene from "Alone in the Mist", soon to be published in paperback by Dopamalovi Books.

    A handgun - pointed at his head. The barrel shakes in unsteady hands. It’s a cheap revolver, a throw down weapon, disposable. The type of gun is irrelevant. Pointed at his head it is just as deadly as a high dollar forty caliber tactical handgun.
     The shooter is a silhouette. A lamp glows like a sun in the background. Nothing stands out on the shooter except an occasional glint of light on wet eyes and highlights on a cheek. The shooter is talking, screaming at him. He doesn’t understand a word. They are too rapid, blending together and losing their meaning. A babbling voice and hysterical sobbing are all he can hear. Long hair swings with each shake of head and thrust of chin.
     He opens his mouth to plead his case, beg for his life. He can’t speak around the knot that has formed in his throat. A croak bursts forth. Tears roll down his cheeks and drip from his chin. This is the end. He is sure of it. The shooter is frenzied, excited beyond reason.
     He knows he is going to die. There is nothing he can do about it.
     He begins a silent prayer, though he hasn’t thought about God in years. Dear God, don’t let me…
     The shooter’s free hand swings forward to disappear in the black void of forehead. The glint of one eye vanishes, covered by a hand camouflaged in shadows. The killer screeches. He cringes and pulls his head into his neck, becoming as small as possible. An eruption of sound and a flash of light envelopes his world.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

1000 Words Contest

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Here is your chance to prove the story behind the picture is more important. I cannot offer payment at this time, but the winning story (in 1,000 words or less and based on this photograph) will be printed in a future post on this blog.

This makes a great writing exercise and provides another listing on your resume'. 

Submission Guidelines:
1.)    I am open to most genres as long as the main focus of the story is based on the above photograph. Please, NO erotica. Graphic language/scenes are okay as long as integral to the story; No gratuitous sex scenes or shock-effect vulgarity. Nothing "X" rated. I reserve the right to edit (with your final approval) before posting the winning story.
2.)    Send as a Word Document or RTF attachment – if neither of these is possible, you may submit in the body of the email.
3.)    This must be an original story and previously unpublished.
4.)    Must be 1,000 words or less.
5.)    Send submission to writinginwonderland@gmail.com with the subject line “1000 Words Contest".
6.)    Include your title and byline/writing as name below title.
7.)    Include a short (2-4 sentences) biography, written in the third person, following your story. This will run with your story (if selected for publication). You may include your personal web or blog address if you wish.
8.)    Please send only ONE submission. Subsequent submissions will be discarded. Be sure you are finished with your story before you submit it.
9.)    I will send a short reply to let you know I have successfully received your story. If you don't receive a reply within 24 hours of submitting, please try again.
10.)      I will NOT offer individual feedback or critiques on your submissions at this time.

The contest runs from today until May 29, 2011. I will publish the winner(s) piece by June 6, 2011. Good luck and Happy Writing!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sweet Award and Favorite Blogs

First, thank you Anita for this "Irresistibly Sweet Blog" award. Along with the strawberry goodness comes these original rules:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
2. Share seven random facts about myself.

3. Pass the award to 15 blogging friends.
4. Contact the winners to congratulate them.

Seven Things About Myself:
In the interest of keeping this post from becoming a novellette you can check out these lists.
Instead of passing this award to 15 specific bloggers (who may or may not have received it before), I invite any of my 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.
Next, I want to say thank you for all of the kind comments and emails you have been sending. The blogging commnity can be such an uplifting (and addictive) thing. So, just for fun, let's compose a list of "Must Visit" blogs.
I received so much feedback from my last post I thought you could use a little more advice on writing and happiness. I'll start off the list of "must visit" blogs with Nathan Bransford and his Ten Commandments for a happy writer. What blogs or posts do you habitually visit because you learn or laugh through them?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Flying High or Crashing Down?

"I pick the prettiest part of the sky and I melt into the wing and then into the air, till I'm just soul on a sunbeam."  ~Richard Bach

I recently visited the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. As I wandered the multiple buildings, floors and exhibits archiving the history of flight and then watching the Blue Angels practice, I found myself wondering what it was like to live when man first achieved flight. How did they feel whenever a plane took off from the ground and completed a successful flight or mission?
As a writer, we come close to feeling the same excitement, romance, sheer bliss of discovery and achievement every time we achieve publication. For some of us, we capture a taste of those feelings simply from completing a project. For others, the feelings are elusive until they receive some form of recognition.
I write best when I'm not comparing myself to others, or wondering if the story I'm telling is original enough or as good as the ones that have come before it, if my family or friends will be embarrassed when they read my work, or any other of a hundred thoughts that can creep up.

The hardest part of writing (for me) isn't the writing itself. It's shutting out the noise and finding my way into a story - getting to the place of blissful writing where I can fly free. There I am free of all things but words and story. I write for myself not for anyone else (which may explain why I still have so many pieces I’ve never bothered to submit).
When I finally feel free enough for submission, I can’t help flying up on wings of anticipation. My soul soars over the completed creation.
Some days there is more to think, worry and wonder about than others. Sometimes I receive a rejection for a piece I felt particularly proud of writing. Sometimes I never hear back from a publisher. Both of these have the potential to make you crash down into the depths of despair,  deaden your spirit and prevent future liftoff – if you let it.

The choice is yours. Will you keep trying? I wish you a lot of flying, of finding that sweet potential where everything else melts away and you become the soul on a sunbeam.
Will you fly high today or let yourself crash and burn?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Google Glitch

Thanks to the Google/Blog glitch, I’m still missing a post as well as quite a few comments. Oh, well. C'est la vie…
You have less than twenty-four hours left to vote in the genre poll and I’m not entirely sure how accurate the results will be due to the glitch. The numbers and results kept changing, but it appears to be fairly equivalent to the comments I received.
I also received quite a few comments and questions about sub-genres including two I mentioned in my post last weekend - Steam punk and Wuxia.
Steam punk is a sub genre of science fiction set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used - usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain. It illustrates technology applications that could have been or might be invented in an alternate history. Think about the "Wild West" movie with Will Smith, Kevin Kline and Kenneth Brannaugh.
Wuxia is Chinese fiction about the adventures of martial artists. The hero is usually from lower class, bound by a code of chivalry requiring them to right wrongs, especially when the helpless or the poor are oppressed. Anyone a fan of Jackie Chan, Jet li, or Chow Yun Fat?
If you are interested in learning more about genres or sub-genres try: http://www.writersdigest.com/article/genredefinitions/
Until next time, enjoy your weekend - hopefully with some beautiful weather, and Happy Writing!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

My story “Feeding the Soul” will appear in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens book set for release on July 26, 2011.

This anthology is a collection of 101 stories of inspiration and support for Tweens. Being a preteen can be difficult for the child, parent and anyone else living with them. School is more challenging, bodies are changing, relationships with parents are different, and new issues arise with friends.

But preteens (as well as family and friends) can find encouragement and inspiration in this collection of stories about the problems and issues they face every day. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens will help readers as they navigate those tough preteen years from ages 9 to 12 with its stories from others just like them, about the highs and lows of life as a preteen. It's a support group they can carry in their backpack!

For more information or to preorder, please click the link in the sidebar.

Only three days left to vote for your favorite genre (sidebar to the right). Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Critiques, Tutoring and Workshops

I have received several requests for another critique giveaway as well as for tutoring time and teaching workshops. 

I’m trying to catch up on other work at this time, but I would love the chance to do all of these in a few weeks. If you are interested in any of the above, please leave me a comment or send an email and we’ll schedule something.

In the mean time, try http://thewritingfaculty.com/tutors  as well as these resources.

Don't forget to vote for your favorite genre (sidebar to the right) or you can leave a comment and links to some of your own genre work in the post below. Happy Writing!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What is Your Genre?

I remember when the only genres I knew about were fiction, nonfiction and biography. Elementary school was such a simple time.
Then, middle school came and with it the discovery of periodicals, art and a larger breakdown of genres. Mystery (Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are timeless), science fiction (I loved A Wrinkle In Time), western (anyone else a Zane Grey fan?) and of course, romance (sigh, I’ve discovered boys!)
High school brought more options…literary fiction, gothic and horror. Now, we have sub-genres…anyone here write or read steam punk? How about Historical fiction, (post) Apocalylptic or Wuxia? (I only discovered there was a name for this one last year).
So, what genre is your current WIP? Do you write in multiple genres (I do). Do you read multiple genres (again, I do). If you’re not a writer, what genre was the last thing you read? On the right is a poll and I hope you’ll take a moment to vote. I know many of us read/write in cross genres, but please just pick one. Go with your first instinct or the section of the bookstore where you want to find your book.
Please feel free to discuss your thoughts on genres (or your WIP) in the comments below. Feel free to add links to your own pages as well. Happy writing!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Examining Literary Fiction

Literary fiction became a popular term following the 1960’s and is mainly to distinguish what some consider ‘serious’ fiction from the more popular ‘genre’ fiction.

Most of what is considered the “classics” (novels written before the 1950s) could be termed literary fiction. These books are character centered; looking at the human condition and provoking the reader into some sort of change. The goal should be to provoke the reader’s beliefs and thoughts, often with an outcome of altering the audience’s outlook. Literary fiction attempts to bring its reader to a deeper understanding of life.

Proponents of literary fiction will tell you it focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character. They tend to be multilayered stories (or transcendentalist) which wrestles with universal dilemmas rather than with plot or narrative.

Confused? Take a look at these three differences.

1.      Plot – In mainstream fiction the author is quick to the point, keep you guessing, and focuses primarily on the events, people, and flow of the story. Literary fiction is not afraid to describe - at length - the surroundings, political agenda, global issues, characters' backgrounds and internal thoughts, and even inanimate objects that help set the scene or denote a certain feeling. They have a unique vision and language.
2.      Style - Mainstream books maintain a sense of the language of the everyday person. Anyone, with any interest, could pick up these books and understand the premise. With literary fiction, however, readers usually have to struggle more in order to understand the point. They have an older feel, often using "higher" English vocabulary to describe something in fewer, but more meaningful words. Readers are also forced to focus on the internal theme of the book, instead of letting the characters reveal what they've learned for them.
3.      Character - Mainstream characters often do not internalize their thoughts, they will come out and say what they're thinking, or remain silent and let their actions speak for them. Literary characters often speak to the reader mostly or only through their internal thoughts. They may even speak to the reader directly, in first person, like the famous introduction, "Call me Ishmael" (Moby-Dick). While they may not have much dialogue, they are constantly providing an inner commentary or the only opinion of the entire story. Charles Dickens is famous for this.

Most classics are considered literary works, and so provide the defining characteristics by which all other genres are compared, but there are several modern-day authors who can be considered literary authors as well. Authors such as Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood can be called today's literary authors.

Many readers and scholars continually debate on classifying their favorites as "mainstream" or "literary."
It has been proposed that literary fiction is, in itself, just another genre. However you finally choose to define your favorite, you'll discover someone else will entirely disagree with you.  

According to Wikipedia; in a June 2006 interview with John Updike on The Charlie Rose Show, Updike said he felt this term, when applied to his work, greatly limited him and his expectations of what might come of his writing... in short, he didn’t like the term “literary fiction”. He said that all his works are literary simply because "they are written in words”.
Literary magazines, especially those affiliated with universities, or annual anthologies like the Pushcart Prize, The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Awards, or Booker Prize typically restrict their selections to literary fiction.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How many hats are you wearing today?

The struggle of being the perfect stay-at-home mom, freelance writer/photographer/editor, volunteer "whatever is needed that week" can become mind boggling and draining on anyone. For me, housework usually takes the back seat and we may hit the drive-thru more often than I cook that week.

Today, I realized many of the deadlines I've been hoping to meet are in the next week. I need a moment to step back and assess what's most important.

First, my family. I have two beautiful girls growing more quickly than I would like. Why can't they stay cute, innocent, cherubic toddlers?

So, as I head out the door to take them to the library, I take a deep breath. I'm prepared to let go of some of my load. I realize it doesn't matter if I don't make every publication I wanted. I made time for my angels. No one else may remember that, but they will.

What do you let slide when you take on too much? What are you unwilling to sacrifice?

Monday, May 2, 2011

A to Z Awards

Thank you Stephanie for this delicious A to Z award.

Thank you Arlee Bird's Tossing It Out for organizing this event and to the cohosts: Jeffrey Beesler's World of the Scribe,  Alex J. Cavanaugh, Jen Daiker's Unedited , Candace Ganger's The Misadventures in Candyland, Karen J Gowen at Coming Down the Mountain , Talli Roland and Stephen Tremp's Breakthrough Blogs.
This blogfest was so much fun and I look forward to visiting with you all again soon. Happy writing!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011 Blogging Challenge Award

A special thank you to Elizabeth Mueller for creating this whimsical A to Z Blogging Award.  I will proudly add it to my awards page.

This challenge was so much fun and I enjoyed meeting many talented individuals. I am hoping to make it around soon to any blogs I may have missed. Take care and Happy Writing!