Writing, Reading, and Smiling . . . It's Contagious.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hal Is Dead


Hal Is Dead


YES, IT'S TRUE. My computer took a train to Cincinnati or Happy Dale or wherever it is that computers go when they decide to part from their masters.

Although I can't begin to tell you how upset I am—Hal and I had a stimulating, four-year relationship—I do want to share a few things I learned this week while being "unplugged."

  1. The Internet is nothing more than a distraction. Granted, it has its pros AND cons like anything else, but I can't say I've missed it.
  2. The world will pass you by if you let it. Stop talking or driving or writing or playing with the computer or whatever it is that you're doing, so you can watch, LISTEN, and dream.
  3. Everything is not all about me. Other human beings are walking around out there. Enough said.
  4. Your environment will control you if you let it. Domineering people are best left under the rock where they live and insurmountable problems are best met head-on. In other words, don't let negativity get the best of you.
  5. Nice people really do exist. You may think it odd that I mention this, but for me this has been the most important lesson I've learned this week. After a scarring experience I had with a funeral-home employee about two weeks ago (yeah, really), I had given up on the human race and was ready to renounce my own humanity. What changed me? Two remarkable people. 
    • Person #1, who knows I am a starving artist, offered me the use of her computer to check my email and write my weekly blog posts until I can get my life in order. Yeah, really.
    • Person #2, a new acquaintance, drove out to my house twice (I live in the middle of nowhere), carted Hal all over the countryside in his attempt to fix him and price parts (we both eventually decided that Hal wasn't worth fixing), and sympathized with me on the phone and my doorstep at least five times about the whole situation. Not only that, but after the madness was over he insisted he did NOTHING. Yeah, really.

As you can see, I've had quite the emotional roller-coaster ride these past two weeks. Yet, despite the problems and the losses, I can't help but think I'm lucky that Hal did take that train.

I've gotten back my life, my hope, and my humanity.


***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seanachaí's News


ON THE LAST SUNDAY of each month, I compile "Seanachaí's News," a status report that assesses my work during the current month and also formulates my plans for the upcoming months. It will also give you a peek at my works in progress.


My Work During the Current Month

  1. Have you lost your motivation? Get it back with "The Golden Flower of Inspiration."
  2. "Striving for Greatness" is all about the beauty of individuality.
  3. When you read your work, do you feel like you're looking into a mirror? Step back from it and think about "The Real You."
  4. "Unplug the Robots!" Just read it.
 


My Plans for the Upcoming Months

  1. The Bad News: I had a complete system meltdown this week. Yeah, really. I'm using a friend's computer to write this blog post because Hal—my computer—is dead and I have no idea how to revive him. I'm also mourning the loss of irreplaceable files. Always, always, always remember to take a few extra minutes out of your day to back up those files!
  2. The Good News:  I did not lose my book or my outline because I saved both to my flash drive about two hours before the crash. However, without a computer, my time to work is limited, so my online presence will be brief. A friend is going to give me the number of another friend who is a whiz with computers, so hopefully by this time next week I'll be up and running again. If you don't hear from me next week, know that I'm working on the problem and I'll be back as soon as possible.



***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Unplug the Robots


I'M DROWNING in my latest WIP, so I'm going to make this brief. 

To all of you who have children, children who are unable to breathe or walk without the aid of headphones or earbuds or whatever they are and unable to speak or write without sliding their thumbs over a keyboard or keypad or whatever they are…

Please, please, PLEASE, unplug these robots from their hardware for a few hours a day and give them something new to play with like a book—sheets of typed paper that are bound and have designs on the first and last pages—or a number-two pencil and a tablet—a long yellow wooden stick with a pink end and sheets of blue-lined paper bound with a silver coil. 

Remember, in thirty years these children will be writing YOUR social security checks (unless these children decide to throw out the word "humanity") and they will be managing YOUR funds and YOUR life…that is, if they haven't forgotten how to think or write.

Oh, and after you've unplugged your children and you hear them making noises other than beeps (that's a good thing!), don't forget to unplug yourself.


***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.
 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The "Real" You



IF YOU FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER, you'll recall that earlier this week I mentioned having a life-changing discussion with a writer-friend of mine. Although the discussion had nothing to do with writing, it sparked an awareness and determination that had been missing in my life and my writing.

So, what was the discussion about? Before I go any further, I want to say this, "I'm not telling."

The Reason I'm Not Telling
No, I'm not trying to be coy. The topic of the discussion that changed my life would be of no significance to anyone but me. Despite the unintentional subterfuge, I do want to say that I've discovered more about myself in one afternoon than I have in the past five years.

The Problem
I've been lacking the motivation to work on my current project which happens to be a lengthy novel of fiction involving certain aspects of the human condition. After this discussion that I mentioned, I've now discovered that I'm writing a pseudo-biographical work on aspects of my condition; hence, the avoidance of writing. I know I've written on the subject of fact versus fiction before, but with each work I compose—whether it be fiction or nonfiction—I discover something new about my writing and about myself. Sometimes I like what I see and sometimes I don't, but with each truth I uncover, I need to realize that each is a part of me whether I want to admit it or not.

Solving the Problem
This is no easy task due to the unexpectedness of the situation in which I now find myself. Each day before I begin working on my project, I'm going to bear in mind that although this work is an extension of J.E. the writer, it's also a fabrication, a dream world for misguided characters and agendas that may or may not be facets of J.E. the person. I cannot allow myself to become lost in this world and I cannot allow myself to be swallowed up by the manifestation, glorification, or fictionalization of the thoughts and insecurities that lie deep within me.

What about you? 
Are you struggling with a particular piece? Are you having trouble finding motivation? Is it possible that this piece says more about the "real" you, then you care to admit? 

Step back from it. While you may see your beliefs, your fears, and your dreams unfolding in this work, realize and understand that you are your own person and that this work—I don't care if it's fiction or not—is nothing more than an illusion that you're creating for your readers.

Coming Full Circle
So, you're still wanting to know the topic of the discussion that made me realize I was writing about the "real" me. All right, it had to do with the inaccuracy of the globe on my bookshelf. See? I told you it would mean nothing to anyone but me.

***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Striving for Greatness



Double-spaced, left-justified, 12 pt. font, MLA style, 
FIVE pages!


IF YOU CAN EXPLAIN the fall of Rome in three pages, tack on an extra two pages of fluff, so you can get an A. Ten pages about Einstein's theory of relativity? You'd better cut it down to five or face Dr. So-and-so's paper shredder. 

Remember writing essays like that? As a student I never had a problem with the  issue of making my work reader-friendly, but I did have a problem with the length requirement. No matter the class, the teacher always dictated a required page count which students dared not adjust to fit their thesis or writing style.

"Sages" also tout average word counts for books, factoring in the intended audience, the genre, the marketability, the author's reputation/experience, the production cost, etc. I remember the nausea I felt after reading that the average word count for a work of fiction is in the neighborhood of 80,000 to 100,000 words. My work of historical fiction, Dead Bird in the Weeds, is nearly twice the "maximum" length. I've asked myself many times if I should have cut 80,000 words in order to "fit in." The answer is always "no," despite the fact that many proclaim that a writer who doesn't stick to the rules is either a bad writer or doesn't understand or care about marketability.

Although I'm confident about my work, this length obsession haunts me daily. Regardless of what I'm writing, I constantly check the page count and the word count as if the work's merit rests in the hands of a magic number. At times it has driven me to the point of adding extra paragraphs or scenes simply because the chapter didn't look long enough. That's nothing more than commercialism, and unless you're considering approaching traditional publishers or agents who are looking to market the latest fad, it has no place in serious fiction.

Despite my conviction, it's hard to break away from the word-count frenzy. Before I start a work, I say to myself, "X (the work) is going to be approximately Y number of words (because of either the genre or complexity of the subject), so plan on X to be Z number of pages." To give you an idea of how instinctive this behavior is, read the following conversation I had earlier this week with a friend of mine:

FRIEND.  I really like this last chapter. You're probably about, what, halfway through this book, aren't you? [Keep in mind that this person knows most of the plot.]

ME.  No, I've only written about one-third of it. [Note that I've been struggling with the length of this book to the point that I've sat for hours staring at the computer while trying to think of a way to stretch it out].

FRIEND.  Oh, really?

ME.  Yeah, this book is going to be about 100,000 words.

FRIEND.  How can you know that when you haven't finished it?

Good point. How can you know the length of a work before it's finished? The answer is simple: You can't! There is no magic word count or page count. A work is as long as it needs to be, no more, no less. Because of this realization, I have now accepted the fact that my book may only be half of what I had originally planned. And do you know what? Nothing is wrong with that.

Another plus is that the pressure is gone. The words are flowing—faster than before—and I'm more confident about what I'm writing. I'm not being sidetracked by the word-count calculator and I've stopped looking at the page count.

So, to all those professors and sages touting average word counts for average essays, books, etc., I have one thing to say, "Sorry, I have no desire to fit into a mold so I can be 'average.'"


I'm striving for greatness.


***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Golden Flower of Inspiration



THE MAPLE TREES on the farm are donning their fall colors and the garden on the edge of the south field is preparing to hibernate. Before tucking the garden in for a long winter's nap, I grabbed my gardening shears and harvested the spaghetti squash on the west end. As I plodded through a tangle of dried leaves and vines, I stumbled upon an amazing find: one large yellow squash flower.

This golden miracle managed to grow beneath several inches of rotting plant matter despite the chilly temperatures and the lateness of the year. Nature had found a way to persevere in the most illogical and improbable of circumstances.

Writing is like that, too. After the birth—or flowering—of an idea and the construction of paragraphs begins, the madness of creating, writing, and editing can sometimes smother motivation and creativity. As a result, the easy way out—desertion—often tempts the writer before the piece has reached maturity.

What happens next? The writer throws out the idea and waits impatiently for another epiphany that may or may not appear. If and when it does, the writer is often duped into another false start and another great idea hits the compost heap.

We can blame this endless cycle on many things: frustration, laziness, or disgust, but rather than giving up on our work and ourselves, we need to meet the problem head-on.  Whether we're writing—or reading—a short poem or a lengthy novel, we need to realize and appreciate the great amount of effort and time it takes to create a work of art. 

When you're overwhelmed and ready to give in, take a moment to clear away the debris so you don't lose sight of that golden flower of inspiration.


***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seanachaí's News


On the last Sunday of each month, I compile "Seanachaí's News," a status report that assesses my work during the current month and also formulates my plans for the upcoming months. It will also give you a peek at my works in progress.


My Work During the Current Month

  1. Do you enjoy the simplicity and beauty of haiku? Don't miss Part IV of  my continuing series, "Murmuring That Creeps into the Life of a Wandering Soul."
  2. Read about a haunted woman's brave attempt to face the future in my latest short-short, "I Saw You."
  3. Are you a writer or artist looking for great software? Check out these five must-have free programs!
 


My Plans for the Upcoming Months

  1. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've been working diligently on my new book. What you may not know is that you've already read the first page. Yes, really. Read the first page of my new novel here!
  2. Don't forget, all of my short stories and poetry are now available at Scribd. You can download my work and subscribe to my feed by following this link. 



***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Five Must-Have Free Programs




How much money did you spend on that program?

None.

Huh?

None!


Many people ask me about the programs I use in my writing and artistic endeavors. As a starving artist, I generally shy away from the expensive software and utilize free programs. On the average, most are as good as or come in a close second to the big blockbuster software. Not only that, but I don't have cut off an appendage in order to achieve success.


Five Must-Have Free Programs


1. OpenOffice  In my opinion, this is the best word processing program you'll find among open-source and traditional software. Page layout is advanced and exports include .pdf format, among others. The only major cons I've found are the inability to export to PDF/X and the limitations of the full-justification feature (line rather than paragraph execution). OpenOffice also includes five other popular programs that rival major competitors' spreadsheet, slide, and database creators. 

2. GIMP  Why would anyone ever need another art program after using GIMP? I have no idea! After downloading GIMP several years ago, I've never used another art program. EVER. OK, I've used the art program mentioned later in this countdown, but that's all! This program has a lot of goodies, including advanced layering, brushes, animation, and filters. Not only that, but creative people are always writing new scripts to improve the functionality. The only con I've found is that the program will not export images to the .pdf format, hence my usage of Inkscape.

3. Inkscape  This program is nice because it will convert popular image extensions to the .pdf format. Although it does have filters, easy-to-execute line creation, and a nice layout, I prefer GIMP for all of my drawing and photo editing needs.

4. Storybook  I discovered this program a couple of weeks ago and have thrown away all of my handwritten notes and abandoned my offline database for novel writing. Yeah, it's that great. You can create character descriptions and location descriptions. You can create and manage chapters and scenes and add characters and locations to each. Time lines of chapters and scenes are generated (great for mysteries) and characters' ages are automatically calculated (helpful if you're writing a saga). I'm only skimming the surface of this program, folks; my advice is to check it out before you write another word. If you're a highly organized writer, you're going to love it!

5. Font Xplorer  This is relatively minor, I know, but if you're a writer who has about a million fonts on your hard drive, a font viewer is going to make your life much easier. Installation is easy and the reward is having all of your fonts available for viewing in one location. When I download fonts, I save them by individual author in a font folder. Then I can view the fonts and their character maps in Font Xplorer by author, character set, whatever.


***

Why are you still here? Download these free programs. Now!

***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Saw You


THE NONFICTION

A woman in an old blue T-shirt throws open a screen door and glares at a vulture gliding in the late afternoon sky. "There's nothing dead around here but my brain," she screeches. The door slams and the carrion eater decides to hang around for handouts of human brain and sanity.

***

As you may have guessed, the scene above did in fact happen this week. The strain of working on my new book has exhausted my word tank and my creativity. With that said, I'll leave you with the short-short I wrote this week for Friday Flash. Enjoy!


*** 

THE FICTION 



I Saw You



11/1/08  Just a Tired Old Town
SAW YOU.
   I was driving through the old part of town when I was caught by the light next to the apartments where we used to live. Mom was shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun and I was fiddling with the rearview mirror to check on— My hand slid from the mirror. I saw you sitting behind me in a black pickup truck with narrowed eyes and a tilted head.
   Was it because of the sun or because you saw me, too? 
   A gentle breeze blew through the crack in your window and ruffled your hair. You still wear it a little long, but that’s OK. I always liked it that way. I closed my eyes and imagined I was running my fingers through those unruly brown curls. Your lips were determined but gentle and your eyes were the color of . . . the color of. . . . No, it’s no use. I may not remember the color of your eyes, but I know they gleamed when you held me close.
   I’m such a fool. I thought I was over you.
   Is it possible to forget someone who used to make me laugh in the cold winter wind and smile at a sink full of dirty dishes? How can I not remember those late nights on the patio, gazing at no-name stars and shaking my head at crazy wishes? Remember how we used to dance in the elevators between floors and wake each other up in the blue hours of dawn to talk about how we met on the corner at the old bookstore? 
   That old brick building is gone now and my heart is breaking in two.
   Did you leave because of the money? I never made you pay for anything I wanted. I had a job. Was it getting too serious? Was it because you weren’t having fun anymore? You warned me before I moved in that we were supposed to have fun. The last words you said to me were, “Baby–” No, wait, I want to make sure I remember this right. You said, “Angel, I’m bored. I’m going out with the guys.” I waited up till three and for breakfast I had stale crackers and old tea. I saved all the furniture and finished out the rest of the lease, hoping you would come back to me.
   I opened my eyes and glanced at the mirror one last time. A woman with long black hair rested her head on your shoulder like I used to do. 
   The light changed and I drove Mom and our daughter home. She’s two.
   You didn’t know about her, did you?

***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Murmuring That Creeps into the Life of a Wandering Soul, Part IV



6/3/10  Actually, a spring sky . . . shhh! ;^)

Lemonade and laughter subside and the warm summer sun gives way to an amber autumn sky.

This week's feature is Part IV of my continuing series of haiku entitled "Murmuring That Creeps into the Life of a Wandering Soul."  

Enjoy!



***

nothing so mournful
as a dove in the morning
silenced by motors

hear wagon wheels crunch
a pair of red sunglasses
reflecting the road

blinding lights at night
pilot dropping loud bombs inside
flashing garbage truck

watch the waxing moon
large and bright in the night sky
falling to the sea

speckled blackbirds cry
and the song of a sparrow
hides in a pillow

warm summer sun shifts
blue jays in the corn crying
silent crickets soon

somewhere in the world
she swims out too far and sings
a sad melody

thoughts of yesterday
cry louder than mourning trains
waking you at dawn

small seeds scattering
on the walk and in the cracks
last song of summer

heavy mist and cold winds
frosting a whimsical leaf
cooling on a rack





***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Seanachaí's News

 
On the last Sunday of each month, I compile "Seanachaí's News," a status report that assesses my work during the current month and also formulates my plans for the upcoming months. It will also give you a peek at my works in progress.


My Work During the Current Month

  1. Starting a new work of fiction? Name the Baby discusses the importance of naming your work before it's published.
  2. Are you talking at readers? Is your writing ambiguous? Keep It Simple!
  3. Stay the Course examines my latest ride on a runaway writer's train. Yeah, you've been there, too! It's that little town called Continuity Problems.
  4.  Excuses, excuses, excuses! Stop Cheating Yourself and WRITE!
 

My Plans for the Upcoming Months

  1. Writing, writing, writing and more writing on the new book.
  2. Have you found your way to Scribd yet? All of my short stories and poetry are now available at this interactive writer's network. You can download my work and subscribe to my feed by following this link. 
  3. Be sure to send your youngster to school with E. Michaels' great new book, Little Duck Gets Ready for School.




***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.
 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stop Cheating Yourself


Do you ever have those days when you can't think clearly? I had planned to present a new short-short for this week's blog, but the words I'm writing are garbage.

I could blame my focusing problem on the new computer chair my brother gave me for my birthday. Sitting in something other than a beat-up rocking chair is messing with my mind . . . or not.

Maybe it's because I've been busy uploading my work to Scribd this weekend and I'm having uploading overload. Nah, that's not, either. 

Could it be that the simplest of grammatical structures is making me look and feel foolish? Possibly.

Does it have something to do with feeling anxious about the direction of my new book? Probably.

Am I having a confidence problem? That's more than likely.

Should I stop being lazy and JUST WRITE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD? Definitely!

Am I mad that I've wasted several days of writing opportunities? YOU BET I AM!

So, what am I saying? I'm saying that if you're good at making excuses so you don't have to write, you're cheating more than potential readers. You're cheating yourself.

Get to work. That's where I'll be, too.


***
 
ANNOUNCEMENTS
 
The trailer for my latest book, Haunted Voices from My Past: True Narratives of an Ohio Family, is in the running for the YGRV August 2010 book trailer awards. If you like my trailer, please vote

Also, be sure to check out E. Michaels' latest book, Little Duck Gets Ready for School. It'll make that first day of school easier—and fun!—for your youngster.
 
***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.
 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stay the Course



I've recently disembarked from a runaway train I like to call "writer's binge." Writer's what? No, believe me, you've had it, too. It's that insane burst of creativity when the words are being generated so fast your fingers can't keep up. You give up sleep, food, and common sense and write until your aching, malnourished body drags itself to the engineer—your brain—and begs to be let off at the next stop. The train slows and you jump onto the platform, weary and haggard. You collect your bags and as the train pulls out of the depot you notice several of the rail ties are missing from the winding track. All breathing stops because now that you're free of the madness, you're able to see that you have an  issue with . . .

Continuity.

Whether you're writing poetry, short stories, or novels, continuity cannot be ignored. It must be regarded as the glue that binds your words to the characters, plot, and theme of the work in progress.

I'm suffering from a continuity issue myself as a result of the four-day writer's binge that took hold of me this week. I was writing like mad, getting very little sleep—about 4–5 hours each night—and creating thousands of new words in which my characters could develop and interact. 

How could that be a problem? 

One of my central characters—I have about three—is acting as he should be; however, somewhere along the way his personal development got out of order. Part of this can be blamed on the fact that I'm telling this story out of order—this story is  presented like the random pieces of colored glass in a  kaleidoscope—but the majority of the problem stems from my latest stint of reckless writing.

So, how am I solving continuity issues? I'm going to physically put the story in order and create a time line so I can see how my character needs to develop as the plot unfolds. I have quite a job ahead of me and it's going to set me a back a few days, but I know I'm going to have something great when I get back on track. Notice the pun? Yeah, that's my point. Without my latest epiphany I'd be without several thousand words of great scenes, characterization, and plot development.

So, what am I trying to say? 

Worry about making sense of the ride after the train reaches the depot. Stay the course and embrace those sudden bursts of creativity however and whenever they show up. Without them we'd be on the station platform empty-handed and waiting for a train that's never going to arrive.


***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Keep It Simple


A SONG SPARROW lives in the giant pines trees on our farm. 

For the past six weeks it has bombarded us with a daily jumble of noisy trills and warbles beginning before six in the morning and lasting until the first star appears at twilight.

No, seriously. The constant jabber lasts from dawn to dusk. Without interruption. Without regard for etiquette and without regard for sanity. 

In the beginning I was hypnotized by its persistence. The insane mix of calls lasts for about four seconds with a two second pause before starting all over again. That's about 600 calls every hour and over 9,000 calls each day. My fascination turned to annoyance long before the 100th.

I've noticed the annoyance of other birds, as well. At first they tried to sing over it. That didn't work, so they tried knocking it from its perch on the spindly tip of a pine tree. That didn't work either, so they resorted to their last defense: running away. I haven't heard another bird on the farm for over four weeks.

You can label the sparrow's pervasiveness as determination, resource management, or loneliness, but among these possibilities is the underlying fact that each one leads to the same conclusion: in its attempt to gain territory it's losing ground.

Gain territory. Lose ground. Oxymoron? Not at all.

Have you been around people who remind you of my song sparrow? They talk and talk and talk and you never have to say a word. You nod during the short pauses—inserted for breathing only—and pretend to listen. After a while you make a believable excuse—if you can somehow manage to get a word in—and leave while your sanity and good manners are intact. 

I know this is a writing blog, so I'll ask a relevant question. Have you been around writers who remind you of my song sparrow? They tweet and yak, blog and write, and scream and shout of their wisdom and success. Without interruption. Without regard for etiquette and without regard for sanity. 

Here's another relevant question: Have you read writing so inflated with extravagance—whether it be through words, setting, or characterization—that you either couldn't get past the first paragraph or you had to skim it? The author uses flowery/scholarly words, indiscernible settings/symbols that are metaphors for something you'll never figure out, and bizarre characterizations that alienate rather than  entice. Without interruption. Without regard for etiquette and without regard for sanity. 

For fear of becoming a song sparrow myself, I'll leave you with this thought: If you're writing to engage, keep it witty, keep it understandable, and keep it simple. 

Oh, and if you're shouting, turn the volume down so the rest of us can get some sleep. :^)



***

As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Name the Baby



As you know, I've been busily writing my new novel and everything was going smoothly until. . . .

Hmmm . . . well, let me start from the beginning. 


Part I

With the exception of Dead Bird in the Weeds, every piece of fiction I've written has had a working title before the first word hit the page. Why? A piece of fiction without a title is like a newborn baby without a name. How are you going to point out your screeching bundle of joy to other parents (readers and writers), if it doesn't have a nametag on its crib? Will you say, "Oh, yeah, that's mine over there, 103 rows from the left, 500 cribs down"?  The reply will be "You mean the bald one with no name who's bawling and has its finger stuck in its mouth?"

Sound familiar? It shouldn't.

Without a title, your work is going to be lost in an imaginary garbage heap like the other million no-name works being written.  The time to interest readers is before the book is available. Give them time to wade in the waters of your creativity before asking them to cut off an appendage to read the work in its entirety. 

To clarify, consider the example below.


Which sounds better?
  1. The new book I'm working on is about a lost girl who finds her way home through the help of a stranger.
  2.  I'm writing a book about a lost girl named Marsha who finds her way home through the help of a ghost.
  3. Mystic Journey is about Marsha, a lost young woman who hitches a ride with a foul-mouthed supernatural being named Roger.


See what I mean? The more concrete you are with your description, the more interesting your idea becomes to readers.



Part II

Notice the name I've given this fictitious book: Mystic Journey. I created this title just now, but upon further investigation at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office,¹ I've discovered that "Mystic Journey" is the name of a bookstore. OK, so now I need to change the name of my book before I get so attached to it that it becomes nearly impossible to think of something else. After Henry has been Henry (possibly for years) can you call him Henrietta without feeling as if you've damaged him in some way?

And that, folks, is the reason for my dilemma this weekend. I didn't check the availability of my working title until I had become so attached to it that I now feel as if I'm murdering my own child.

My advice: name that baby before it's born, but make sure that another prospective parent hasn't beaten you to mailing the Social Security application.



1. On the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office home page, click option 2 "Search Marks," then click "New User Form Search (Basic)." Type keywords in the "Search Term" box.


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As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seanachaí's News

 
On the last Sunday of each month, I compile "Seanachaí's News," a status report that assesses my work during the current month and also formulates my plans for the upcoming months. It will also give you a peek at my works in progress.


My Work During the Current Month

  1. The Apple Pie is in the Oven is a short piece that celebrates Independence Day using a collage of memories.
  2. Have you ever been at a crossroads in your life? Just Another Ledgewalker examines a tough decision I was faced with as a writer and a person.
  3. Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind? explores the decisions we are faced with when seemingly bad things happen to good characters.
 

My Plans for the Upcoming Months

  1. I'm working diligently on my new novel and had a breakthrough over the weekend after a heart-to-heart chat with a dear friend of mine. If you're struggling with your writing and you're doubting your direction and abilities, talk over your problems with someone you trust. I guarantee that they'll put you back on track.

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ANNOUNCEMENT

If you haven't visited You Gotta Read Videos this week, please do so. The book trailer for my novel, Dead Bird in the Weeds, is in the running for the July 2010 YGR Best Trailer Award and I could really use your vote! Voting ends midnight on July 26.

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As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.