What did you DO?!


Thought I'd quickly post about the peasant's new clothes before I go to bed. You see, I was putting up a post at our photography blog tonight and realized that it was in desperate need of a makeover. That got me to looking around for a new theme for it that I rather like (although the top picture needs to be replace, but all in due time). And of course that got me to looking at all the other cool themes they had available. 

I've always wanted a three column theme, but could never find one that I liked. Tonight I decided to look again. Something like 15 pages into my search I happened upon this one and loved it. Anyone who really knows me will tell you, "this is Dave." Total eastern wisdom tree hugger stuff going on here . . . and it's all in green. :o) 

Anyway, this layout appears to have more room to play around in, and frankly, all of those buttons and gizmos that I painstakingly programmed by hand weren't really being used as far as I know, so I decided to let go of my attachment to them. If you want to know what's been keeping me away from writing here, check out the photography blog. Things have been going really well on that end. Also, I'm gearing up to send Spark off to Writers of the Future. Deadline is the 31st, so I'll be getting it off the first of the week. 

Your Writing Secret Santa

Who Keeps You Going?

“My wife.” “My family.” “The Crit Nazis.” “An angry little voice inside my head named Sergio Velasquez of Pompedore.” These are common answers to the title question. And we often give thanks to these people around this time of the year. I know that Sergio was very happy that I mentioned him over Thanksgiving dinner prayer. But I also think that there are other people in our lives that deserve thanks for keeping us going and we don't often acknowledge them.

I'm not about to chastise you about service members or the Red Cross or something like that. I'm talking about people who don't even intend to help you out. They're just being themselves and for some reason that's all it takes. Something about their presence in your life, no matter how small, helps your inner voice to sing, “What I do really does matter.”

For my wife it would be the one in a hundred former student that chimes in on Facebook to say, “I used to love it when you'd read to us. That was my favorite time of class.” For you it's someone different, maybe a waiter at your favorite restaurant that knows your order by heart. Could be that manager in another department that makes sure to stop and tell you what a good job she thinks you're doing.

For the past few weeks my unknown motivators have been a couple of high school students. We'll call them David and Heather. Back when I was just about to let this entire blog thing die altogether, my wife stopped to ask me about it.

“So what's going on with the blog?”

“Eh, I'm not worried about it. If I feel inspired I might post something, but at this point I'm pretty much burnt out.”

She gave me that sad look as though she was witnessing a dream die in front of her. “That's too bad. My students asked me about it the other day.”

I looked up from my laptop. “Your students? Why would they ask you about it?”

“Some of them enjoy reading it and they wanted to know why you hadn't been on in a while.”

A few days later I took our son into school with me so that my wife could take pictures of a play. Heather happened to be in it, and Aiden loved Heather. He'd run across the stage to where she was standing on the ground below and jump off into her arms only to have me follow him all the way around to guide him up the stairs and then do it all over again.

At one point, while the little guy was distracted, she mentioned that she enjoyed reading what I put up here and said that she missed my posts.  

Honestly, that was all that it took. A couple of inquiries from David and Heather was all that I needed to get that little voice inside my head to sing again.

So here's a great big thank you to you guys for sticking with me. I think that everyone reading this should go out an thank their secret inspiration, that person or persons who keep you going without their knowing it. Tis the season after all.   

You Are Beautiful

Here's another writerly thought from the vacation of television viewing. On one of the days we were in Denver over break (what? I didn't tell you we went to Denver? Well of course I didn't. Do you know how many loonies are out there waiting for a public broadcast about when a person is not going to be home for an extended period of time? Sheesh.) my sister-in-law had a marathon of some fashion show on. It was some makeover show where two totally obnoxious people, a gay guy and a fashionista, makeover a woman and throw out all of her clothes while they make fun of her for not dressing like they do. It's really rather disgusting.  

During one of the episodes my brother chimed in with how he thought that all of them women were unattractive. His reasoning was that just about every one of them cried during their makeover and that to him was an ugly thing. He likes strong women who are sure of themselves and don't need clothing to feel important or worthy.

What troubled me about this was that my brother, the big NRA, Ron Paul, motorcycle mechanic, who I love, is not really all that in tune with the feminine psyche. While women will always be an enigma to me, I do seem to understand them a bit more than most men (even if I try not to let on like I do). Growing up in a divorced home where all I wanted for my mom was to find true love, I bent my will to trying to become the perfect man for some woman someday. I'd horde my mother's issues of Glamour and Cosmo. I'm sure that others in the family thought I was doing it for the pictures of the gorgeous models when in truth what I was doing was reading all of the articles pertaining to men and what women wanted. After many years of teenage research, all of them spent bumbling through failed interactions with women, I discovered some truths. The first truth is that you shouldn't believe what you read in women's magazines. Often times a woman's expressed desire does not match with what she takes action on. Years later I would finally understand why.

What my brother was seeing as a weakness, and even a rarity in women was in fact quite the opposite. Hell, it's not even confined to women, we're all that insecure. It's just that these fashionistas and their producers have found a way to break down the walls of defense so that they can get tears on film. What my brother doesn't seem to get is that almost all women feel that way. They struggle with weight, apply makeup, shave, spend thousands on clothing, work on posture, mannerisms, all the things that he would think are silly plague women from the time they are little girls. That's why Twilight even for as bad a production as it is, has captured the minds of so many women.

Here you have a girl who is insecure, unsure of herself, not the prettiest, or smartest, or most loved and then suddenly one day it all changes. In steps a man who sees her for her inner beauty, who loves her unfailingly, willing to give up everything to be with her and will even “wait” for her.

It struck me as rather sad that so many men don't get it. Heck, our entire culture doesn't seem to get it even though half of it is suffering from it. It has inspired me to delve into it more in my writing. Strong female protagonists are fun and sexy, but unless we show how they struggle with what all women struggle with, and possibly suggest ways for them to get past it, we are doing a disservice to our readers, to truth.

And just in case you're a guy out there or a tough as nails woman in denial, I'll add a note from the photography world that I happened upon. While I was researching posing women for glamour shots, I happened upon a female photographer whose profession it has been to take glamour and fashion shots of gorgeous women for over a decade noted that the most difficult part of her job is simply this: getting her model to believe that she's beautiful because even the most gorgeous women in the world don't believe it.

Photo two is from Cheryl McLaughlin, titled: My Insecurities.

Mythbusters Sub Plots

Part of every holiday seems to find my family sitting in front of a television for some part of the day. It's especially intriguing for me since, as I've said before, we don't have a television. This year, out in Denver at my sister and brother-in-law's place, the remote found its way into my brother's hands. That meant a full day of The Mythbuster's marathon.  

Other than the sheer amusement of watching my conspiracy theorizing father and brother agree with everything that the show said until they got to the moon landing conspiracy theory debunking, “Notice they don't let you see that picture very long?” “Like we're supposed to trust them when they're going off of NASA information.” (This was a very good lesson in people believing what they want to believe). I found a very good lesson for writing tucked into how the show was laid out.

The earlier versions of the show had the two myth busting goofballs finding a myth and going through the entire process of debunking it. For the most part you got one myth from start to finish. In the more recent version of the show they've added three young sidekicks who debunk myths related to the major myth that the two pros take on.

While I found myself getting tired of the process involved with debunking the major myth the “sub” myths keep me hanging around for just another fifteen minutes. Before I knew it we were in the final segment and by that time I might as well stick around for the finale.

When I finally tore myself away from the television, . . . okay, so it was my wife who tore me away with the announcement that dinner was ready, I came away with a realization: the “sub” myths served as sub-plots. You know, those smaller problems that writers sprinkle throughout the story that all relate to the main plot but that can be solved all along the way. They keep us reading. They're the “V” payoff that I was talking about last week.

These sub-plots should all be related to the main plot. They build on each other. Some of them work to get us a little closer to the truth, while others work to put our characters further in peril. They sort of work in tandem. They appear to be pulling in opposite directions, yet they are both working to advance the story. Were all of the sub-plots positive there'd be no tension. If they were all downfalls our spirit would be crushed and we'd simply stop reading.

And there's my t.v. Inspired writing thought.

  • Sub-plots work to keep the reader involved.
  • They should be both positive and negative.
  • Above all they work to move the story forward.
  • Always relate them to the main plot.

Oh, and one last thing that just occurred to me: deeper meaning. These little successes and failures should also reveal something about our characters. While sub-plots are hard enough to deal with as it is, this last one really raises the bar and can often leave a writer with quite a headache. It's not going to be painfully obvious, “I will no longer trust white tailed weevils!” It'll be more like that story worthy problem that rides underneath the surface that the pro doesn't quite get until the end. They're small steps to getting to that resolution.

Transparent Evil

During Thanksgiving break, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” played on the Disney channel. In my youth I enjoyed the book, but now that I'm older I have a strong distaste for it. I'm not one for overt Christian allegory as it is, but I realized while watching the Aslan death scene that there was something more to it than that. It's the same in LOTR, and probably part of the reason I've migrated away from that kind of storytelling in general. I strongly dislike the definition of evil in these stories.

It's not simply the cookie cutter mold of evil that we so often get. You know, the flat characters who do as their author tells them so as to move the story along. What I truly dislike is the entire depiction of this evil. It's obvious, clearly defined, and serves as more of a disservice to those that the writer is trying to warn with his cautionary tale.

Wardrobe is a perfect example. Evil is obvious. It is the feminine that seeks power, the twisted black horn that drives into Aslan, it wears black armor, snarls and bites, it speaks with a silvery tongue, lies to get what it wants, its weapons are crooked and rusty. Good, on the other hand, battles with gleaming steal, wears white cowboy hats and rides a shimmering steed. It is the patriarchy guided by truth and justice. The feminine is allowed to exist only in so far as it stays within the confines set up for it. While Good is not forced to follow rules but instead chooses to, it can rewrite them in order to win the day.

How lopsided and one dimensional can you get? I mean think about it, when Good brings the dead back to life we sing “He has arisen,” but when Evil does we curse them as the damned. How easy would it be to make a case for bringing the dead back to life? Yet no one ever does. When the Witch demands justice as set forth by the laws written by Aslan himself, she is made out to be wicked; and yet, if the roles were reversed we'd cheer the good guy for “outwitting” his enemy.

I guess my main problem with it all is simply this: it doesn't inspire thought. These stories aren't meant to facilitate discussion, they're designed to give instructions. They paint things in Black and White even though life is so much more complicated than that. Granted, at the very beginning Jadis starts out as somewhat kind to our gullible son of Adam, but really anyone watching is sitting thinking, “No, you big idiot, don't do it.”

I'm Stereo Typing


Just finished the dog kennel here at the house. The fencing has been up for a year, but I've been trying to find the time to pour cement around the bottom because the dogs are notorious diggers. Matter of fact, the strip across the bottom doesn't even keep them in, they dig under that as well. So, I also had to create a border of discarded cement chunks from demolishing old things around the property along he entirety of the inner perimeter.

They're still trying to dig out. But at least they're failing now, and I was able to take them off of their runner cables and let them play together, the mamma and her two boys. It was nice to see them play, but it also made me a little sad.

Siska, the little black menace that has been banished to live in the back with my folks, would have loved to be playing too. Unfortunately, she likes to get into terribly viscous fights with the other dogs, mainly Mihka, our loyal and lovable brown lab.

Siska, like Mihka, was a stray that I took in. She's a little black runt that looks like a lab but is way too short. The vet marveled at her tongue when I took her to get shots long long ago. It has a black spot on it, which baffled him because that is supposedly a hallmark of a Chow, but she looks nothing like one. I, on the other hand, have always thought she was mixed with a Pit because of what she looks like when she gets into a fight.

Now, a couple of weeks ago we were at a friend's for dinner and he was telling me about a stray dog that he had to have put down because the shelter wouldn't take it. You see, it had a black spot on its tongue indicating that it was part Chow. Apparently, Chow's are known for being a jealous dog and become very attached to their owners.

A little bell went off in my head. “Maybe that's what's wrong with Siska.” Siska is totally loveable, she'll roll over on her back and let just about anybody rub her, but as soon as you start petting another dog or playing with another dog she turns mean. And that got me to thinking about writing. I thought about how you can do that with a lot of animals. You don't pick crows to use as homing pigeons, nor do you try and convince a poodle to be a sled dog. Certain “breeds” are wired specific ways.  

That led me to thinking about humans. If we were to say something like “blacks are better at basketball,” it would be considered extremely racist. Yet in fantasy literature we have dwarves that mine, gnomes that invent, elves that convene with nature and so on. There seems to be no thought to how that could be considered racist.

Indeed, even when we pull back and go in a SF route, we find readers going into an uproar when white authors don't portray black protagonists as “black.” Meanwhile there's a separate debate that says that defining certain things as being attributed to one race or another is actually racist. Or is it the limits that we put on people as defined by race?

I'm rather conflicted about it myself. I think that it is possible that we are all simply wired a certain way based on genetics. I believe that DNA can play a lot larger role in a person's life than we care to admit. I think that some people end up being more violent than others not simply because of how they were raised, but because of how they were bred. If breeders can pick out traits that are best suited for fighting dogs, why can't the same be said of a woman who had an abusive father going on to find an abusive husband of her own and having kids with him? Are we not taking those aggressive genes and combining them?  

The question is, where does that fit in to our writing? Do we avoid it and hope to somehow erase “stereotypes,” or do we simply accept that maybe stereotypes are more like genetic traits? After all, whether we care to admit it or not, we all stereotype. We do it all the time.

About a month after finding out the mysterious missing link in my own heritage, we took a trip up to visit my brother and sister-in-law. On our way to get a bite to eat I told him about my latest discovery about being an eighth black. He was just as dumbfounded as I was.

His wife's response? “No wonder you like girls with big butts.”

My response to her extremely insensitive, narrow-minded, racist stereotyping? “Hey, me too!”  

Monday Funny: Bruce Lee Beat Down


I love the outcome to this fight. 

When I was little, my big idol was Schwarzenegger, that was when I actually thought I could grow to be that size. I think that once I realized that I wouldn't grow past a certain point and forever be a scrawny guy, my idol turned to be Bruce Lee. :o) 

V Hit What Heroes Missed

'V' my saving grace.  

Thank the writer gods for 'V'. In all honesty, when I heard that the tv folks were planning another hackery of a classic because they couldn't come up with compelling new ideas, I threw up a little in my mouth. But after half a season of the silent self torture that is 'Heroes' and an abysmal start to 'Legend of the Seeker,' I find my self singing the praises of 'V.'

Actually, 'Seeker' wasn't that bad until they pulled that totally in fashion trick where just about anyone can be brought back to life. I looked past it when the sexy chicks in leather did it because really, how many people are those haters of all mankind going to revive? But now ANYONE can be brought back to life. Are you kidding me? I mean really.

Even for all of that night of the living dead crap, I still give them more props than I do 'Heroes.' The writers at 'Heroes' simply have no balls. They can't kill anyone, save for speedster girl. And that's probably because I thought she was insanely cute and the writers at 'Heroes' hate me. Of course I think Charlie is cute too, but then she's hidden in limbo someplace so she might as well be dead.

Now, I say all of this even after 'V' pulled the same “you never know who's really dead” bull by bringing back to life that FBI agent's V partner. And really, he's such a well known actor I can see them doing one of those, “Oooo, alien technology is so advanced that they can even revive people that they themselves have killed.” (Hence why Ryan had to leave ashes in place of the guy that he didn't really kill).

What I was so exited about in this last episode of 'V' was hope. Not Obamanized hope that is tossed into discussions when you don't want to talk about things like Bushified terrorism. No, I'm talking about real hope. The writers set us up for the oh so common never ending setback after setback, “How miserable can we make everyone involved, including the viewer, before we spring our witty and triumphant ending?” gag that absolutely everyone does these days.

Rather than totally knocking us to our knees, the writers reveal that the double agent is not only alive, but that he knows who has seen his true face and then they kill that S.O.B. (again). But they don't just kill him, they give us hope, because now we've got a man on the inside on the mother ship. “The fifth column says hello.”

The episode was a tit for tat one where every advance that the bad guy made, the good guys made one as well. We still have the sense that our good guys are in way over their heads, but they have a chance. It's not hopeless.

I think that writers often forget that these days. 'Heroes' is a prime example of that. There are never any real moments of hope. There's episode after episode of being pulled further into the pit in hopes building up the payoff at the end. If things look dire enough, then it makes what the good guys do all that more amazing, right? But I for one think that it makes for a miserable journey along the way.  

Sure, there's still room for that in writing. The trouble is, it seems like we're saturated in it right now.

Anyway, I'm just thankful that 'V' has outdone my low expectations and is saving me from from more “Silar's dead, but he's alive, but he's dead, no wait he's alive, ah you thought he was dead but he moved his 'dead' spot, no he's dead but his body is alive in one place and his consciousness in another, no wait he's vanished, no wait he's just shot David in the head and put him out of his misery.”  

Don't worry, I come back to life again in the final thirty seconds of the show.

Our lesson? Keep real hope alive in your story amidst all of the pitfalls you set up for your characters.

Dors mon enfant


So 'Spark' is finally done. It needs some polishing, but the story is finally there. The emotions, while still raw, have been captured. In yet another break in the lucky streak that is my writing right now, I happened upon a bit of French that's perfect for the story.

From the beginning I've had Silas, the Pro, singing a French nursery rhyme throughout. Trouble was, there wasn't really any deeper meaning to the rhyme other than it being French. Last night, in researching other rhymes I came across this, “Dors, mon enfant.” If you'd like to read it along with the piano accompaniment, play the youtube video.

“Dors, mon enfant.”

Dors entre mes bras,

Enfant plein de charmes!

Tu ne connais pas

Les soucis, les larmes;

Tu ris en dormant,

À ton doux sourire,

Mon coeur se déchire;

Dors, ô mon enfant!

Dors sur les genoux

De ta pauvre mère,

Car le sort jaloux

T'a ravi ton père;

Je veille en tremblant

Sur ta faible enfance,

Dors, mon espérance,

Dors, ô mon enfant!

Dors et ne crains rien,

Car si tu sommeilles,

Ton ange gardien,

Ta mère, te veille,

Le repos descend

Sur ton front candide,

Dors sous mon égide,

Dors, ô mon enfant!

The English translation had each section slipping into place in the story seemlesly.

Sleep, my child.

Sleep in my arms,

my adorable child!

you know yet

neither sorrow nor tears;

You smile in your sleep,

Your sweet smile

Tears at my heart;

Sleep, oh my child!

Sleep on the knees

Of your poor mother,

Because envious Destiny

Has robbed you of your father;

Trembling I watch over you

Over your tender life,

Sleep, you my hope,

Sleep, oh my child!

Sleep without a fear,

For in your slumber,

Your guardian angel,

Your mother, keeps guard,

You fall asleep while

No sorrow creases your brow,

Sleep, while I take you under my wing,

Sleep, oh my child!

I'd love to hear this sung. So if anyone happens upon a video or mp3 where it's sung in French, please point me to it and you will have my sincerest gratitude.

Now then, the only questions that remain are: is providing the French in the short story a little much even if it they do come spread out through the 10k, and should the English translation follow at the end or should it be one of those leg work things that authors leave for readers that really care?

The Spark of Truth


And it's done. That story I kept whining about, promising a completion date for and then never delivering. It's finally done. Well, save for the final touch ups, but it's there, from start to finish: Spark.

My eyes are still red rimmed as I write this because the ending was such a tear jerker. I think that's a good thing because the ending has changed. It was sad before, but I somehow found a new meaning in the story that made it even sadder. That is, it's sadder for me.

What's strange is that I don't really know how it happened. I know what my original hang up was, the badgal. I've even talked about it here. She was cruel and cold hearted, and flat, very, very flat. She was a one dimensional whipping girl built up in the likeness of someone who once broke my heart. Then I decided that she needed at least one more dimension and took her in the complete opposite direction, and tried to pin things on another character, but that didn't sit right.

The biggest problem was that I never fully explored the final scene, I didn't delve into the confrontation between Silas and the badgal and for some reason I couldn't conjure up the scene to save my life. During my floundering a series of things occurred. While I worked on the story at writing group, specifically trying to figure out the infamous badgal that was giving me all the headache I overheard one of my partners talk about K.A.R.A. grief counseling. That doesn't sound all that weird until you consider that the name of badgal happens to be Cara. The story also deals with the death of an infant and over the past few months of blockage there have been three reports of little ones dying in the nearby area. When you have a little one of your own, such news hits all the harder especially when the ages of those children seemed to almost mimic the age of my own during the times of their parting.

As a little background, the first baby, a little 10 or 11 month old, rolled off a bed while under the care of a nanny, bumped its head and died because of a concussion. The second had been picked up from daycare by the babysitter and brought back to her house (the children were supposed to always go back to their home, not to the sitter's) she had a pitbull, the screaming sitter chased it through the house trying to get it to let go of the 15 month old. The third, 16 months as my son is now, was sleeping soundly in his crib while his mother took a quick bath. He tried climbing out, fell between the crib and the wall and suffocated by the time she got out.

It's a fear that non parents can't understand. Actually, I think the fear lies deepest in the hearts of first time parents. A friend of mine who hasn't had kids yet called it first time paranoia. I think the stories above illustrate how it is much more than mere paranoia. It's something that nags at you every time you leave your child with someone else so you can get a moments peace. It haunts your dreams at night so that you spring from bed at the slightest cry. It's what gripped me when my wife was pregnant, back when I first started writing the story. That kernel of truth is what earned the original story publication in the annual that I had thrice failed to gain acceptance from. And it was that truth that I lost in the edits.

I needed the fragility of life to remind me what I was writing and my own crisis of faith with regards to continuing writing to jar me awake.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to say that I'm finally back to my old self. I might not blog in the same capacity as I did before, my priorities have changed. Whereas before the blog took precedent over much else in life, now it will only occur when I really have something to say and the time to say it in. But I'm writing, and that's what this has always been about.

So if you're lost with what you're working on, maybe you too are having a difficult time remembering what that little truth was that first gripped you. Find it and the words will flow again.

My Own Wings


I sit down tonight with a strange sort of purpose about my writing. One of those surreal moments of clarity that comes only after great tribulation. Indeed, it feels like some forty days and forty nights ago that the critique group experiment imploded taking with it my will to carry on.

NaNo, was to be my reemergence, the stretching of my writer's wings after a long hibernation. This past week alone should have brought countless a writing hour my way what with canceled photo shoots and a cold that kept me indoors. That was not the case. Photos needed editing, a baby needed tending, guests needed to be entertained, or at the very least cleaned up after. When it came time to write I found not the energy to unfold my wings.

Soon we'll be off to Denver again. The last trip marking the beginning of my writerly tailspin. As usual, others are piling on even more tasks for me to complete before we even board the airplane. All this leaves me thinking that the tailspin might finally come to an end with a glorious burst of red and orange flame.

However, this time, when I look back from the cockpit and peer through the smoke and sparks I see that there is no one to save. The plane is empty. It seems that the seats were all peopled with my imagination. The lives I was trying to save never needed saving, duties and responsibilities mere ghosts.

I don't have to save the plane and its passengers . . . save one.

I step towards the door, air rushing past as the lifeless mass of metal hurtles towards its mother. It seems too easy. I should have to fight, claw my way inch by inch towards the blue ski above, but it is a dream after all, isn't it?

When I reach the opening I find that I no longer have to strain to unfurl my wings, I have but to try. The slightest gap provides enough room for the air to whirl up around me, forcing the wings to let loose from my body. They burst open with a pop of sails catching wind, lifting me up. I float away from the ghost ship and its flames, watch as it smashes into the ground. Onlookers oo and awe, point little fingers this way and that. They're all too caught up in the spectacle to notice the tiny fleck floating above them.

Here I'm left, alone in the great blue ski where imaginings go to rest once we've forgotten them. I have no passengers to weigh me down, no fuel gauge to dictate my starts and stops, only the beat of my wings and the drive of my heart and so many pretty little imaginings to play amongst. Where I go from here is up to me.

Write on.


“Excuses,” that's what I thought today as I drove around running errands. I was thinking about all of the reasons pertaining to why I'm not writing, and not blogging. In the end I simply said to myself, “excuses.”  

It's pretty easy to come up with them. Heck, just tonight I thought I'd sit down and write, but then the baby started crying and refused to go to sleep. As I was failing at comforting him, I said to myself, “See, every time I try to write I get interrupted.”  

So what did I do after my wife took him and nursed him to sleep; I watched the latest episode of “V.” Yup. Excuses.  

I was about to try and find something else to watch, but I stopped myself. Maybe it was the imaginative kick to the head delivered by “V,” but I was feeling like something needed to get done. My own imagination needed to be recognized.  

While it happens to be nearly eleven o'clock here, I'm going to actually sit and write more than just a short blog posting.  

I hope all of your writing is going well. Although, when I check in on the NaNoWriMo page I find that people's numbers aren't really going up. At least not the numbers of those that I know on NaNo. Heck, I know that mine definitely haven't gone up. But I think I'll change that tonight.  

If you're also participating in NaNo, feel free to look me up. It's easy, 'david.noceti'. Now stop making excuses and get back to writing.  

Monday Funny Facebook


Some strong language in this song, but I think it reflects the thoughts of every Facebooker ever from the beginning of Facebooking time. 

Not NaNo Again


Well, it's November 1st again, and as all writers everywhere know, it's the first day of National Novel Writing Month. The month when Chris Baty tries his damnedest to sell you more of his merchandise under the guise of helping writers everywhere while using his tax exempt organization as an advertising tool and email address collector to help him better peddle his wares.  

Bloggers all across the land are putting up posts about their strategies for this month, their hopes, fears, . . . word counters. I however will not be making the typical NaNo post. This is about anti-NaNo while still participating in it. 

It just so happens that the organizer for my region is a part of my face-to-face writing group. She's also the co-moderator for the "Rebels." And I have signed up with the resistance. 

If you were considering doing NaNo, but don't want to abandon what you are already working on, then join up with the Rebel list in the forums of NaNo and write to your heart's content. They talk a lot more about how to break the rules over on the forum thread, so check it out. 

My personal rule breaking will be to continue the novel that I have in progress and only count words written in November. Now then, I have lots of writing to get done. 1,800 words before midnight. Think I'll go and get some coffee made up. 

Happy writing everyone and "Vive la résistance!"

Ride my Wave


Well, lots of interesting things to talk about, but for tonight I'm just going to mention one thing, "I GOT AN INVITE TO GOOGLE WAVE!!!" 

"What's that?" you say. 

Only the coolest thing since . . . uh, ever. 

Actually, it's way more complicated than that, but that's a nice overview. So, as one of the chosen, I've been given 20 invites to pass along so that I actually have people to wave with. Of course I have to give some of those out to family and close friends who know where I live and will hurt me if I don't send an invite to them first, but I think that there are going to be a few left over. 

So I got to thinking, "who would even use Wave?" and "Who do I WANT to use Wave with?" The answer is those that I can talk with about writing. I also got to thinking that a lot of the people who comment on this blog have gmail accounts. (Do you see where I'm going with this?)

What better way to thank you awesome people than by sharing the Wave love (especially when I have no money)? 

So, if you're interested in riding the Wave, get in touch with me so that I can send you an invite. I'll add as many as I can (which isn't many) but I'll do my best.

Ambitextrous Artistry (not really)

It seems to me that most writers tend to be artistic in some way other than just writing. I've mentioned before my stint in art school, graphic design, comics, and sign making. I also took a year off of school after graduating high school to play in a garage band (don't ask).  

My wife, who used to write when she had the time to do such things, is into oil painting and heads the yearbook at her high school. I have a writing group partner who participates in Ren Faire and enjoys drum circle. Crit partner 1 used to be an operatic singer. Crit partner 2 takes photographs. And Maggie Stiefvater, author of Shivver, and the object of both my crit partners' eternal and undying affection, is a bag piper, and even created her own animated trailer for one of her latest books.

During my break from writing, I still needed to get some form of artistic expression out. Instead of picking up one of my previously developed artistic veins, I ventured into a new one with my wife. We've gone into photography! I know, I know, here we go again, right? Well, one great thing about this new venture is that my wife and I get to do it together. Rather than me working away in the office and her at her desk, we're side by side interacting and helping each other get better at the craft. But I won't talk too much about that here. Melody has started us a photography blog that we'll be updating from time to time. If you're into that kind of thing, check it out at http://www.melodyanddavidphotography.blogspot.com/

So what's your artistic outlet that's not writing? And more importantly, why do we have them? I'm curious about that and don't really have an answer to it. Is it just that we're artistic people and we need to express ourselves in as many ways as possible? I don't know, you tell me.

Mental Swine Flu

Where in the world have I been? Well, I didn't really go anywhere, I just took one of my communication vacations. Before the age of the internet I never felt that they were necessary. I used to call up friends all of the time, go out every weekend, had to have the television on in the background even if I wasn't watching it.  

Something to do with the constantly plugged in reality that we live in now has changed all of that. As I've said before, I don't have a television. Whereas getting a telephone call used to be a treat, I now find them annoying. And going out? HA! I'm actually going to be ditching out on a Reno bachelor party because I'd rather save the money for a camera. Obviously, things have changed.  

As I endeavored to reach out to every possible writing vein I could, I found that I submerged myself in communication. At night I'd have a conversation with you via the blog, during the day there was chatting with crit partners, then I started up the critique group that crashed and burned, but while it was going I had three chapters a week extra to critique and then there was infighting and head butting and headaches. When I finally put my foot down and said “that's it, this isn't going to work,” and took the group out to the back forty and put it down, I'd had enough.  

The choice at that point was either to try and keep struggling on with everything else even though I wasn't 100% or just stopping altogether. I guess it was kind of like being sick. Doctors don't usually prescribe that you stop doing one thing but continue doing everything else when you're laid up with swine flu. They tell you to sit your ass in bed and don't get up until you're better. Well that's just what I did, only I did it mentally. And you know what, I think it worked. I feel much better now.  

And there's your thought as I return to blogging after something like a two week hiatus. Take a real break from whatever it is that is wearing on you, not a fake one. The fake one's don't get rid of the bug.  

Winter Voice


A thought on senses and their uniqueness to each of us. I think that Les Edgerton's book, Finding Your Voice has me thinking about this, and I'm glad that it does. He talks a lot about bringing your own unique view of the world into your writing, letting your experiences color the way you describe things.

Just tonight I was sitting down to write, the chill of the witching hour setting in. I nudged the thermostat as I started to boil some water and listened to the wall heater start up. That's when this thought came to me.

Winter sounds like the hallow burning of a furnace that clicks as it gets warmer, it tastes like a hot cup of cocoa, smells like almond wood burning in the fireplace, and feels like the warm curve of my wife's body pressing up against me in bed, flannel sheets wrapping around us.

These things are all unique to me. Sure, others may share some, but not all. I need to remember this unique view of the world when I write because it is my voice and it is what I know.

So I wonder, what is winter to you?

Sum Total Characters

I was out getting construction supplies this weekend, sitting in my folks' big 16 foot box van. It's one of those ones where you sit on the engine and the front of it is all flat glass and bumper so you get a really good view of the road (and your impending doom should you run into the back of a semi).  

While I sat at a stop light I looked out on a woman crossing the road in front of me. She walked a shiny Walmart mountain bike that didn't really go with the men's jeans she was wearing. The bike fit her, being for a child and she about the height of a junior high student. Her hair, probably capable of great things in her youth, was left wild and frizzy, shocks of white tearing through it like a ghost trying to escape a grave. There might have been a crook to her bulbous nose though I couldn't really say for sure. Maybe it was that faded black t-shirt that she wore like a teenage grunge boy that made me think it should be crooked.

As she passed I couldn't help but wonder what had gone wrong in her life. Who might have abused her, touched her, used her, pushed her around and left that sneer on her face. Lovers, mothers, fathers, uncles?

And then I thought, “Does she know?”

Does she think of those things and how they effect her? How those experiences make her decisions for her? How many of us really do?

Just a thought.

We are all the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences mold us into who we are, but we rarely think of them. Even our characters are nothing more than experiences. And we should bear in mind that they don't always realize that they manipulate their actions.

Monday Funny Angry (feet)


So today's little funny comes from over the pond. It sort of goes with what I wrote up for tomorrow, so I thought I'd share it in spite of the strong language. Yes, there is strong language, he's actually going to say what we tend to think on a daily basis. 

Did you get that kiddies? If not: WARNING. . . STRONG LANGUAGE (this message may be inappropriate for ill mannered children or old fuddy duddies)

Changes to this blog

Quitting?! Me? Never. 

Okay, so it crossed my mind. Then I realized that in hard times we don't quit, we adapt. Over the past week I've been doing some assessing of my own goals and have taken a hard look at what I've accomplished. I also got some great feedback from readers, which I'll share with you since it mostly came off-board.

My dear friend Amanda had some great ideas about formatting:

Hey David,

I was just reading your post today, and I have a suggestion that I thought might help. Maybe it's not the length of the post that's keeping people from reading, but the way it's presented? It reminded me of what job coaches tell you about a resume - you only have a few seconds to sell yourself; no one wants to read a block of text, they want bullets and titles that stand out so they can see what you're about at a glance. There's one blog that I frequent (http://www.facebook.com/l/29918;zenhabits.net) that takes advantage of his reader's short attention span by doing just this. Here's an example: http://www.facebook.com/l/29918;zenhabits.net/2009/09/the-habit-change-cheatsheet-29-ways-to-successfully-ingrain-a-behavior/#more-4644

Les Edgerton wrote in with this bit of wisdom:

Hey David,

I just wanted to comment on your post about cutting back on your blog. My thought when I see a blog that comes out as regular as your does is, "When does he ever have time to do his own writing?" A good example is a couple of weeks ago, I was gabbing with agent Don Maass and we were talking about Nathan Bransford and his daily blog. We both wondered when the heck did he find time to do any agenting. Well, he does and he's a great agent and somehow finds the time, but I just know I started a blog once and had to quit fairly soon into it as it was eating great chunks of my available writing time up. I think if you post, say once a week, you'd find it worked better for you. I had a similar problem years ago when I was a hairstylist. I'd talk about the novel or whatever I was working on all day long to clients and when I got home at night found I wrote very little. The reason? I was "writing" all day long when I was talking to my clients! Since I figured that out, I quit talking to anyone about what I was working on, including my wife. That helped a ton. Hey, if you think this will help anyone, please feel free to post it on your blog. I just can't figure out how to do that!

BTW, I really enjoy your postings!

And my writing mom, Viki, had this to say:

First of all, a lot of the stuff you've written here has been tremendously helpful to MY writing. There have even been a few of those "coincidences" that what you've written DIRECTLY speaks to an issue I'm having with my story, or my process, or even my motivation for writing at all! So, for me, your blog has often helped me get back to a writing mojo....& it has also made me smile & then laugh out loud. AND, I have quoted it to many writing friends.

And cos of that, I'm probably not truly objective. But that's okay too. Inspiration & direction is subjective, and your blog has provided both for me. I don't think you need to change a thing about it. (so sue me!)

That said, & purely for the sake of trying to at least offer SOME kind of suggestion: Would it be feasible to decide on one subject/thought/theme for each week, then write about it over 3-5 days? Each post building on the last to a conclusion? Giving you an opportunity to expound? Is this a way of telling you that there have been many times that I wanted more? Yeah.

What I learned

Formatting: I need to spend more time on it

Time: I don't have it

Loyalty: Just because some folks are forced to take a break doesn't mean they aren't coming back and I should be here when they return

Length: It's the length of my posts that's killing me

Goals: My main goal is to write and publish, but I'm spending a good chunk of my writing time putting together posts

Comments: Sometime in the near future I might have to abandon this blog theme for one that is better about comments

Friends: I've got a lot of great people out there that love and support me and I appreciate all of them

And the Verdict Is:

I'm going to keep the same format. Five days a week, extras on the weekends if the mood strikes me. The difference is going to be in length. Rather than struggling to put together four fully developed posts, I'll have small thoughts like yesterdays for three of those days and then one post a week will be a well developed article, complete with formatting, witty headings, and pictures. It's all that extra stuff that I try to put into the articles to make them easier on the eyes that really eats away at time.

This should free up time for both you and me to get our writing done. You won't be trying to wade through long posts, and I won't be spending all my time writing them.

Did I miss anything? If so, and you weren't able to comment before, you're always welcome to drop me a line and share your thoughts. If there's something you'd like to see more or less of, say so. After all, it's the feedback that I get from you guys that makes this all worth while. 

Hope everyone's lives are getting a little less complicated and that you're finding adequate time for your writing. 


How many things do you have on the back-burner? Me? Tons. I had to go out and get extra stoves just so that I could have more back-burners to put things on.  

Take a moment to consider how many things you have on back-burners. Right them all down. Make a big long list, (you might want to do this in a word processor). Then organize that list, not from most important to least, but from most frustrating to least.

For instance, I have dogs that keep getting off of their tethers and wreaking havoc (still can't find my other hiking shoe). While finishing off the inside of the house in preparation for winter is more important, I'm going to focus on getting the dog kennel done first because it is a constant source of irritation.

One by one, pull those pots and pans on the back burners up to the front. Focus on them one at a time, dedicate time and energy to completing one project rather than simply making progress, and I think you'll find the stove-top of your mind a little less messy and a lot more manageable.

Tomorrow I'll reveal my plan for going forward with the blog. Stay tuned.

Critique this Blog


So, what’s going on with the blog? Good question? I think I’m posting too often and I mean that with regards to everyone involved, both you, and me.

For you folks, I’m just way to wordy. I find myself doing it on other people’s blogs too. I tune in, look to see how much I have to read, sigh, tell myself I’ll come back to it later, and then don’t. I do that all the time with David Farland’s Kicks. They don’t work as kicks anymore because they’re too damned long. Save for when his brother does them for him. In those instances they act more like kicks.

For me, I’m just not getting things done because I’m spending all of my free time working on posts. Last week, ahead of our trip to Colorado, I was busting my butt to get posts done ahead of time so that they would be ready while I was gone. That meant that while I was on the plane I was working on critiques for my critique group and posting those things late.

My reward for all of this hard work? Another low readership week. The lowest in six weeks.

Obviously something has to be done. I just don’t know what it is. So I need to test out some things. The first thing I’m going to test out is posting less often. For a while the numbers seemed to say that I should post as often as possible, but I think that has oversaturated readers. That and there seems to be this collective busyness taking over everyone’s lives right now, my own included. It’s not summer anymore, and we just don’t have the time.

So, here’s the question, what is a good posting schedule for Divining the Words? Should they continue to be every weekday but broken up into smaller segments, maybe spread an article out over a week? Post one full article a week? Every other day? You tell me. You are the reason I do this after all because it sure as hell isn’t for the money. J

There you go. I’m opening DtW up for critique. If you don’t want to publically broadcast your opinion, send your thoughts over to noceti.david@gmail.com. And remember, I can handle criticism of all shades, so send your nastiest and most kind, I’ll take them all.


Your humble servant,


Monday Funny: Marriage


In honor of my sister's wedding this past weekend and my officiating of the ceremony. 

With dipping readership numbers over the past few weeks, I'm considering making some changes to the blog, so stay tuned for that. 

Until tomorrow, I bid you a happy Monday. 

Heroes How NOT to Character Motivate

The writers for the Heroes television series have had long enough to straighten up their act after the union strike. Last season was lack luster, and if the premiere I watched this week tells us anything, season four is going to be comical.

Never mind the opening with the casket where my first thought was, “This guy is totally going to be an earth mover and he's going to cover the casket with his power.” (Actually, he's probably an empath or whatever the Sith lord called Peter, because after all, he's playing the role of father Patrelli in this rehash of every other season so far.)

My biggest problem with Heroes has always been character motivation. There is none. People just do things for the sake of moving the ill conceived plot along. This premiere was proof enough of that.

Claire moves into college and a dorm room with a power hungry, straight A student (save for that B+ in Poly Sci or whatever it was) who knows just where she's going in life, has it mapped out, and happens to be gorgeous as well (because aren't they all, did you see the hotties at the other lunch table?). And like all roommates do upon first meeting someone new, she berates Claire about her life plan and teddy bears no more than two minutes into their stay together. In fact, those few moments that they spent together were more than enough for her to then fill in Claire's father about how good of a student Claire could be if she just applied herself. People do that sort of stuff all the time in real life. Don't they?

If Annie, the roommate isn't unbelievable enough, Claire's fatal flaw, tell the truth even if it kills you and the ones you love, is almost as unbelievable as Noah's fatal flaw of lie about everything even if it costs you your family, but even more unbelievable than both of those is the reset button hit during every season with these two. It always goes back to “Oh I love my father with puppy dog eyes, I heart him, I really really do” after every season in which Noah turns out to be a scum bag and Claire proves how much of an idiot she can be.

And what's the most inconspicuous thing a super powered idiot can do? Apparently jump out of their own dorm room window, because no one would notice on a college campus. Everyone knows that college students go to bed early, save for the stalker/murderer/super powered Gretchen. (Yes, I'm calling Gretchen out as the invisible woman, “So I heard that you didn't see a suicide note.” Uh huh, riiiiight. In another show that would be a slight of hand, in Heroes it's the writers thinking they're witty.)

Then we jump to Hiro and Ando who have decided to go public and advertise their services as heroes. Really? Richest guy in all of Japan, he's saved the world more than once, watched his mother and father die, and he's still pretending to be a twelve year old trapped in a man's body? Really? Oh, but it's because he's dying. I gotcha. I mean what better time to act like a child than in your last days.

Oh, and let us not forget Peter. If you don't remember, Peter's fatal flaw is that he is fatally optimistic. Why be subtle about saving people's lives after you've been hunted to near extinction for an entire season? Just jump around New York like Spiderman, (or PETER Parker) and rip the doors off of wrecked cars in front of onlookers. I'm sure no one will notice. And if they do, hey, they'll appreciate that you're helping someone and applaud like they should. Besides, if saving lives is your new form of crack, who really gives a damn.

Even when a Heroes character starts to make sense, like with Tracy Strouse and her quest for vengeance, the writers do their damndest to frack it all to hell and back. Sure, sure, Tracy has always been cold and calculating, so much so that she became the ice queen, but why not turn her into the ray of sunshine in Noah's life because she saw a dirtbag that absolutely no one cared for, die. That's perfectly believable to me. I'm always meeting people who are willing to drown to death four men in a row and then suddenly turn into Rainbow Fracking Brite.

To sum up the rest of my feelings, I hope Sylar kills that pantywaist Parkman (no relation to Peter PARKer) and takes over his body. And then I hope he finds Suresh before he can make an appearance in this season and kills him too. Then he needs to make his way to Nathan and kill him before he has another bizarre coming to Jesus moment that totally changes the fate of the world. After all of those messes are cleaned up, we wait and watch Hiro die so we don't have anymore time slippage idiocy.

Unfortunately, where Heroes lacks in developing characters who portray believable motivations, they excel at killing off those characters who do have believable motivation. Case in point: Speedster girl who thought Parkman was an idiot for falling in love with her based on a dream. That's believable, and of course, that's why she had to die.

Images: NBC/ Chris Haston

The Danger of Making Stuff Up

So I'm sort of at a loss for today's post. I had this really witty witticism all witted up and ready to go, and now I can't use it. What I was going to say was that today's small cleaning task was knocking down cobwebs. I started in one room and then moved one by one, twirling up all kinds of webs and watching daddy longlegs try to flee by zip-lining away from the brush only to find that I was twirling the rod that said brush was attached to, pulling them in like a wench.  

Most would try to cut their line, choosing instead to take their chances with a fall to the ground. With the brush swinging back and forth over my head I found myself worrying about one of them going kamikaze and falling on me instead. But I remembered something. Even though daddy longlegs are the most venomous spider on the planet, they don't have the proper mouth with witch to bite us. What a wonderful correlation with a character's fatal flaw. What better way to explain how someone's strength can also be their weakness.

Now, why can't I use that example? Because Daddy Longlegs aren't the most venomous spider on the planet. They (the scientists) don't even know how venomous they are. It's never been tested. This is just another lie spread by the disinformation era where any idiot with access to the net can pretend to be a scientist and send out senseless drivel. That's how elections are won, folks.

And that's my short thought for the day: FACT CHECK EVERYTHING. Don't do it just because we want to stop the spread of disinformation, do it because when your reader gets to something like that and knows otherwise, they're going to stop and say, “This joker doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.”

Granted, in my case that might be true, but don't flat out tell people about it. As a writer you want to be sure that the only time your reader pauses to think about things is when you want them to, and you especially don't want them to pause because they're questioning you. It stops the story, pulls them out of the scene, reminds them that “hey, this is all made up.” I should know, because I just made this all up.

Kidding. It's true. Really. No, honestly, it is.

Writers Are Known For Their Writing

I grew up with a man that can do anything. When I was little he was a bus mechanic, I got a little older and he started building houses, older still and he went back to college to become a science teacher. My dad knows way too much about politics, dietary health, and exercise. When other dads were buying their first computers my dad was bringing home the components so that he could build his.  

That same can do attitude has haunted me through much of my life. There's never been something that someone else can do that I looked at and didn't think, “Anything you can do I can do better.” Some might call that conceit, but I think it's a great attitude to have in life, just so long as you don't let it go to your head.

I honestly believe that anyone can do anything they put their minds to. It's not that I think I'm amazing, it's that I really don't think that there is much that separates two people in what they do aside from the time that they've spent working on it. And there in lies our problem. Time.

You see, each one of these new tasks that I take on requires an investment in time. The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not the time spent learning something new would be better spent furthering progress in something you already know. Concert pianists don't learn their trade, get some diploma, and then stop learning and practicing.

If you want to be the best at something, or even noteworthy, you have to dedicate yourself to it. There is no special Jack-Of-All-Trades award presented every year. Thomas Jefferson might have been a great politician, architect, and thinker, but he only became recognized for the second two because of his dedication to the first.

So as you're getting ready to code and design your own website and blog, then quickly pick up Photo Shop so that you can design your book cover, and oh, while you're at it become a master at digital photography so that you can shoot all of your own photos, try to figure out how much of that time might be better spent on honing the craft of writing. You know, that thing on which all the others hinge upon.

If you have the money, it might be a wiser decision to find someone who has chosen one of those aforementioned fields and made it their own. Especially when it comes to marketing. Take it from a graphic designer turned carpenter turned writer turned. .  . okay, so I don't practice what a I preach. Sue me. But wait till after I take the Bar. (Kidding)  

What To Do With A Clichéd Character

So I was struggling through the end of Spark this weekend, as promised. I got to thinking about it and realized that part of my hangup is that I don't know who one of the characters is. Actually, no, that's not right, I do know who she is, she's based off of someone I've known. But when I go to write the character she comes out so clichéd.

Through the various versions she's seen a few different incarnations, one closely based on reality, the next pure evil, the last a bit more caring and concerned. So when I sat down to write her big scene I had to come to terms with these different aspects. That's when I wrote an interview in her voice, basing it off of things that I've heard in real life.

The surprising thing was, when I got done I found that, no, she is just as clichéd as she sounded originally before I tried to add to her character.

I mean, clichés and stereotypes come from somewhere, don't they? I guess, the key is in finding that bit of unique truth hidden within the cliché. For Cara it's this misguided mothering. She can be so cold and cruel with her work, but at the same time she sees herself as a mother figure, the rock to which her brothers can tether themselves to.

I'm wondering what other characters I have that are coming off as clichéd and what unique truth I can find in them.

Does this give anyone any thoughts on their own characters?

And I'm sorry about another short post. I'm desperately trying to catch up and then get ahead in preparation for the out of state wedding this weekend. So much to do and such little time. Sigh. I almost decided on taking a week off from the blog, but I won't fall off of the wagon now, I can't. I've been making too much progress to toss in the towel, even for a break. 

Monday Funny: Road Trip


It's Monday, and it's not funny. No completed Spark. Not happy about that. No time to write. 

"I don't tell my parents, and I don't tell my friends, I'll just grab some rubber tubing and pull on my depends, and then I drive. It's time for a road trip." 

Writing Your Beginning Later


Let's end the week on beginnings. We started out by talking about them, but I had another thought that I wanted to add to that discussion. Along with not doing a serious critique of the first chapter until you've reached the end of your novel, so too must you be ready to trash said beginning. And not just in a novel, in shorts as well.

The only reason I bring this up is because I for one, and a few others that I know as well, tend to stress about beginnings. We can't get started until we fully understand where the story is going, who our character is, who they will become and so forth. The trouble is, you've got to get something  onto the page before all of that is going to spring from the eternal fountain of brilliance that is your head.

Honestly though, this might be one of those discovery writer sorts of things. Outliners might not have this problem (cue for the Outliners to chime in in the comments section). I'm terrible at it myself so I can't really say. But what I have tried with outlining would still tell me that I'd likely still need to rework my beginning after I got to the end.

I've found that I do that with posts for the blog. In fact, that's how the thought occurred to me. I sat down one night to write a post and found myself agonizing over the words for the opening. Then I stopped and thought about it. “David, you're just going to rewrite the beginning of this post when you get to the end anyways because that's what you always do. You just need to start. The beginning will come later.”

Keeping this idea in mind with regards to beginnings will help in two ways. First, and most obvious, letting you get started without having to worry about coming up with the perfect beginning. Second, it keeps you open to the possibility of trashing it later on during a revision.

Sometimes suggesting that a beginning isn't working and needs to be scrapped is hard to hear. But like I said in Tuesday's post, that beginning is what gets your foot in the door with an agent, publisher, and reader. So much rides on that opening that it doesn't pay to be stubborn about the beginning.

And that, my friends, is it for this week. Sorry about there not being any pictures today, but its been a long week and there's a long weekend ahead. But keep your heads up, I sense that things are turning around for everyone. Remember the friend whose relative was in the hospital? Well the relative is doing much better and the dreaded swine flu is leaving the friend's body

Happy Writing!

Pitfalls Of Putting Yourself Into Your Characters

Write what you know. Right? And what could you possibly know better, than yourself? Probably a lot of things. You see, I don’t think we really know ourselves as well as we think. We have issues and hang-ups that we haven’t even begun to discover yet. They are what holds us back, ties us down, and clouds our minds. And I don’t think anyone lets those things carry on knowingly. 

But here’s the thing, even when we don’t think we’re writing about ourselves, we are. And when we do so unknowingly, the writing gets harder. Sure, your character is more interesting because they’re actually dealing with real issues, but you have to be willing to deal with those issues yourself before you can get your character to.

Case in point: Spark, the infamous never finished but always mentioned short story. I finally realized why I’m having such a hard time moving forward with it and putting it to bed. I don’t have the issues that I had when I started it. Sounds pompous, right? Hear me out.

Spark came to me one night as I crept into bed after a long day’s work. I snuggled up to my wife, placed my hand on her belly and tried to feel my son dreaming away inside her. Like most writers, I had a dream of my own. That dream led to Spark, where a young man, too afraid of the commitment, challenges, and responsibilities of having a child causes the death of his unborn daughter. The story is his quest for retribution.

Here I am over a year and a half later working on a revision to the ending and I can’t think like that frightened father-to-be anymore. Not only am I Dad, I’m Stay-At-Home-Dad. I spend more time with my son than most moms get these days, let alone dads. And you can call me conceited on this one if you want, but I’m a damn good dad. At this very moment I’m watching a baby monitor while my boy sleeps and though he’s three rooms away, were he to pop up and make a move for the edge of the bed, I’d be there before he could fall. (LOL, he must have heard me thinking because he just woke up. Don’t worry, he’s fine, just needed to know I was nearby and went back to sleep.)

I’ll eventually be able to put myself into that frame of mind and playact what it was like, but I fear that it won’t be as powerful. But that's what's holding me back, fearing that I won't speak truth to the character any longer.  

And what about the other instance, the one where you don’t even realize you’re writing about yourself? You know your character’s problems, what holds them back, what they have to deal with, but you can’t write it. It could be that one of the reasons you can’t deal with your character’s issues is because yours and theirs are one in the same.

Have you considered that? Have you looked at your character’s flaws and considered that they might be your own? Are you ready to deal with those flaws in your own life so that you can write your story? Maybe that’s not you, but it is definitely something to consider.


Behaviour & Communication:
How To Be The Best Dad In The Galaxy

One last thing. A little patting myself on the back. This marks my 100th post and come Friday this will be my 15th straight week without missing a post. So yay me. I shall celebrate by poring cement, preparing dinner, washing clothes, washing dishes, and writing another blog post. :) 

Collective Angst and Airplane Gremlins

So I had something else in mind for today, but honestly, I'm exhausted. A late night storming session yesterday with a writer friend to get her book going, my wife's open house tonight that brought me and the little guy out to her school with dinner (and that means entertaining him by chasing him around on the grass for hours), the Novel Crit group started yesterday, I'm helping my wife photograph a wedding on Saturday, my sister's wedding is in less than two weeks out in Colorado and I am performing the ceremony (have NOT practiced), the house is in no way ready for the rains and the cold, a friend is coming to stay the night, the dog kennel needs to be finished or a separate dog house built for the third dog, the garage is decades from completion, money is tight, queries to write, stories to finish, the blog, the house, don't get me started on the house –

And that's what today's post is about. You're not alone. It seems like everyone is going through all kinds of stress right now. Another writer I know just got back from a relaxing two week vacation only to find that her daughter is going in for surgery and another relative had a stroke. She's missing her favorite annual event. And to top it all off, she's got the flu so she can't visit any of her loved ones.

It's everyone right now. You. Me. Everyone.

Forget the Collective Unconscious, this is like Collective Angst.

I mean, what the hell? Is there like some evil gremlin out on the wing of flight 607 nonstop to Happyland and we're all on it or what? (Wanna see something creepy? I picked 607 off the top of my head, wrote that sentence about Happyland and thought, “I wonder if I'm using a flight number from a recent crash and that's why it's stuck in my head. That would be wrong.” So I googled it. No way I could have known ahead of time what I ended up finding. No known cause. Just creepy. Really creepy.)

Really, that's it. No long winded post today. Not because I don't think you deserve the best I can give you, but because I think that everyone is running a mile a minute right now and we all just need to slow down, collect ourselves, take in a deep breathe, and relax. Maybe think back to better times, when life was slower. For me, that's the beginning of the 80's when I was two and you can't possibly have fewer cares.

And you know what always makes me feel a little better when I'm stressed . . . THE MUPPETS!

Just something about it. My folks used to record episodes on a cassette deck so that we could listen to them way back before there were VCR's. Or maybe there were VCR's and we just couldn't afford one. Remember those? Back before they had clear plastic for cassettes? I can still hear that Muppets Star Wars episode they did.

So remember, when life tortures you with gargling Gershwins be ready with a good song and dance number. “You are my lucky star. I saw you from afar.”