Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How to Build a Novel Out of Snow

What I'm reading right now: I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

That's right. It's finally here. It's been available for a couple of years (maybe even three) in Europe. I've recently heard Dan speak at a couple of venues, one of which he mentioned that Serial Killer is in its fifth printing in Germany. When I say that I'm reading it, I just picked it up today (it was released yesterday, March 30th.)

I don't have anything to say about it other than it's had some terrific and unique reviews. I'll keep you posted.

~ * ~

On to the pulp of this post, How to Build a Novel Out of Snow. There is a popular website/blog out there called Advanced Fiction Writing. Popular for good reason, plenty of stellar stuff there. In fact, it was recently mentioned on a blog I link to on this page, There Are No Rules.

It's run by a bloke (bloke is my word, he's not English) by the name of Randy Ingermanson. He's published a few novels as well as recently released Writing Fiction for Dummies. Randy has created a software program called Snowflake Pro. It takes you through the process of outlining your novel, creating characters, and even composes your pitch.

This is the welcome page. You can see the tabs across the top which guide you through the process of refining your idea, helping you set up the bones of your story so you when you're finished, all you have to do is flesh it out, so to speak (which still leaves plenty of room for improvisation as your muse directs--hey, Martin Short and Arnold Schwarzenegger both have a skeleton of 206 bones. You get my point.)


For a complete overview of what the program does, click here. At the bottom of that page, there's also an offer for 50% off the cost, which carries a pretty reasonable price tag to begin with.

I bought it and I'm going to try it out. I've been working in my comfort zone for awhile now (which is the zone of the short story) but I'm anxious and eager to have a full-length novel under my belt. I let you know how it goes.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Wish I'd Said That

What I'm reading right now: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Ah where would we be without Facebook? Well, personally I'd be my brother, who has yet to succumb to the world of FB, claiming he has no interest in what you had for breakfast or which farm animal you just acquired. Honestly, to that end, neither do I.

However, FB has enabled me to keep in touch with friends who otherwise I would not. You know how you meet people, you share an experience, and you say "Let's keep in touch"? When you say it you honestly mean it, but then the realities of life get in the way and  despite your best intentions you fall back into your own cirlces of life.

     {insert road map to hell HERE}

Facebook keeps those circles touching, even overlapping some. If you've read any of my previous posts then you know that hardly a post goes by without a mention of Orson Scott Card. He was once a FB holdout as well, but finally gave in when he came to this realization, "After vowing I'd never join MySpace or FaceBook,[sic] I finally realized that I was missing out on a lot of contact that doesn't come through ordinary emails."

Back to my brother, I wouldn't mind if he joined up, but then I might only be more frustrated because he would probably check his FB less often than he checks voicemail. I do have friends whose circle do not overlap with my own, but on rare occasions. Facebook lets us keep those relationships alive, no matter where life takes us and for that I am grateful.

Remember when you first set up your FB profile and filled out the "info" tab. You put oh so much thought into what you wanted to say and how you wanted people to perceive you? Which are my favorite movies and TV shows? Books? And what about quotations? You really had to think about those, right? Because more so than television and books, your favorite quotes (if you really did put yourself out there and post your favorites) reveal a more intimate you than anything else on FB, even more than pictures.

I was reviewing my info page the other day and found that I'm still satisfied with my quotes. I thought I'd share a few here and you can decide what these quotes reveal about me.

1) "...and her body broke out so painfully in gooseflesh that she writhed on the bed."

This is from Stephen King's Lisey's Story. I read about the first 75 pages of this book and just could not get into it. As is SK's way, he spends a good deal of time setting things up in the first half of his novels so the characters can respond in the second half. In this one, he lost me. However, I was compelled to revisit it, by all things, the cover, both the one on the left and the one on the right. On my second go around, I went with the audio version and I was able to complete the book. Probably didn't hurt that I pictured Diane Lane as the main character, Lisey.

2) "...and then, with her stories, she ravished me."

This is from The 13th Tale. When I was attending a workshop by OSC,
he called this book by Diane Setterfield, "Brilliant...not a word is wasted."  High praise indeed.

3) Two for this entry, Also by Stephen King, not from any of his books.

"The road to hell is paved with adverbs."
"Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."

4) And the last one, a quote from novelest and acclaimed memoirist, Augusten Burroughs.
"I regret that I stayed in a career for years and years even though I was unhappy. I stayed for the money and I stayed because I was afraid to follow my gut. But finally, I reached a point where it was life or death. And I decided to write. I decided, I might live in a cheap rented room somewhere in the Midwest and I might own nothing but a computer and a pair of jeans and a jacket, but for the rest of my life I will write and I will not stop."

Got any quotes of your own you'd like to share? They don't have to be from your Facebook page. Share with me the words that inspire you, that evoke your passions.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pleasure Coated Nuggets of Pleasure

What I'm reading right now: Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

After an exploration into alternate URLs and redirecting and masking that yielded nothing but techincal difficulties and ultimately just kept this blog down for a week or so, I'm back. And with my rentrĂ© I'd like to make a bit of a departure from my standard fare.

This blog was built on my passion for language, writing and specifically words - using words to convey emotion. In an earlier post I talked about how Orson Scott Card moved me, literally right off the treadmill, with his amazing organization of words that, when taken as a whole, amount to his novel, Lost Boys.

It is that type of emotion that I seek. I seek to experience it and to create it. So far I've had more success in the former than the latter, but truly believe my best days are ahead of me. Last night I experienced it again. To my great pleasure I get to experience this particular event each March, just a bit before St. Patrick's Day and the great news is, you can too--next year. I'm talking about The Young Dubliners.

The Young Dubliners started out as two young lads, Keith Roberts and Paul O Toole, who moved from Dublin to Los Angeles in 1988 and were essentially dubbed The Young Dubliners by their fans. Keith has said, "Had I known then that we'd have such longevity and would still be out there doing 180 to 250 shows a year I probably would have come up with a different name. When people say were no longer so young, I reply, well, the Fine Young Cannibals never ate anyone! . . . The cool thing is, we've stayed young at heart, doing our best to grow into the name rather than let the name grow out of us."

I must agree. My wife and I have been going to their show for the last three years now and we will continue to go as long as they continue to come. Their live performances are nothing short of frenetic. Even if you aren't into Irish rock, you can't help but get swept away by rhythms, melodies, chords, and sheer power of their music. It's not hard for me, I'm a ginger, thanks to my full-Irish grandmother (more evident in my beard than my hair, but it's there.)

What's even better, and why I've chosen this topic, is their lyrics. Their songs tell stories and relate Celtic culture. Combine it with guitars, drums, a fiddle, an assortment of pipes, and a love of story and you leave having been moved. It's an experience that will stay with you long after your ears have stopped ringing.

For nearly two hours we gorged ourselves on pleasure coated nuggets of pleasure dipped in a mixture of light and dark pleasure with a sprinkling of delight. When they first came on stage, Keith started with a guitar riff and then thanked us, "Salt Lake City. One night. Whenever we feel like taking a break or getting off the road for awhile, all we have to do is play Salt Lake City for one night and you remind us why we do this."

Does he say that to all the girls? Maybe. Probably. But we don't love him any less.

He thanked us. Young Dubs, I thank you; for giving me a night to let my hair down, to let my soul and my feet dance, and for giving me one of those moments in life that take your breath away. And to the young lass in the suite directly across from me, who was so proud of her red bra, well, I thank you, too.

I've never seen an author resonate with a room full of people the way musicians do, but I have seen people pack conference halls to listen to their favorite writer, stand in line for hours to have a book signed, seen a wheel chair bound veteran give his purple heart to an author who, through his writing (Tracy Hickman,) inspired him to save the lives of his unit, and seen the lengths that one person will go to, to say to an author, I love your writing.

Yes, we write for ourselves. Yes, we write because we are compelled to. Yes, it's great to hear those four words, I love your writing. But not out of pride, but because somebody is better off because you did.

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