Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kansas, Land of SciFi

Just a quick note to point out that KC Ball is attending the Jim Gunn's Science Fiction Writer's Workshop in Lawrence, Kansas. She is posting her adventures at her website here. KC is a slush reader for Every Day Fiction and the editor of 10Flash, the genre online flash fiction magazine, which debuts tomorrow.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What Creeps you out?

I'm still set on quirky mode after this weekend's "lying blog" and reading of the sins of others...Natalie L. Sin's short Kinder surprise video left me sort of creeped-out. I got thinking about the sort of things that do that for me.

What I think is horrific in novels and movies is when something pops out of the human host (ala Alien) or say when spiders come out of a dead body's mouth. This may sound silly, but the thing that spooks me the most is when you have an antagonist levitating. Examples of this are the girls in "The Craft" and Gary Oldman in "Bram Stoker's Dracula." I was also reminded of this a while back while reading Stephen King's "Cell."

I read mostly blogs of people that write horror stories, and I know a few of those same horror people drop in here. Let's have an informal poll of sorts. I'm all for giving the reader what they want, so let's figure out what people find spooky. What creeps you out?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Never Tell a Lie...

I've been out of the loop for a couple of days as some managers, VPees, etc. have been in town for a conference and I've been involved in a limited sort of way. All is back to "normal" and, upon checking blogs, I've discovered that I've been tagged by Natalie L. Sin, queen of the fujoshi, and KC Shaw, mistress of Weredeer. And, a shout out to Carrie Harris for starting this wonderful thread (see, I've started lying already...kidding, I love this stuff!)It takes great effort for me to be funny, but we were at Yuk Yuk's last night so I'm feeling inspired...

"Sometimes you can learn more about a person by what they don’t tell you. Sometimes you can learn a lot from the things they just make up. If you are tagged with this Meme, lie to me. Then tag 7 other folks (one for each deadly sin) and hope they can lie.

Pride: What is your biggest contribution to the world?

In my early teens, I became frustrated with how the ribbons would tangle with 8-track tapes and later, with cassettes. I then invented the CD, much more compact and user-friendly that vinyl or tapes. To protect these little gems, I also invented the plastic cases to store them it.

Envy: What do your coworkers wish they had which is yours?

My bountiful hair of course...I worked in a steel plant for years, and there was much jealousy about my flowing locks and heavy beard. The guys were jealous, too...

Gluttony: What did you eat last night?

We eats the Lobster and seal flipper pies. We alternate between them every other night, b'y!

(being Canadian, I feel compelled to apologise to all Newfoundlanders for the bad accent and to anyone else I may have offended about the seals...)

Lust: What really lights your fire?

hmm...Mazola and a large plastic sheet. Scratch that. Mostly the Thursday night dress-ups as Kirk and Uhura after our son has gone to bed. OK, I exaggerated a bit. It's a semi-annual affair, but things really heat up...phasers on stun!

Anger: What is the last thing that really pissed you off?

You know how when you try to open those F*&%$@! CD cases when they're stuck. You force it too hard and it snaps off at the hinges...that gets my ire up! Who invented those damn things anyway...

Greed: Name something you keep from others.

What I keep secret is my lineage to Albert Einstein. The family resemblance is most obvious when I've shaved off my beard and my hair poofs up on humid days (see attached photo).

Sloth: What's the laziest thing you've ever done?

At the last Thursday semi-annual dress up, I had some other guy fill the role of Captain Kirk for me (he did angst much better than I...)

I don't have 7 friends to tag, but perhaps the other 3 people whom I know read this blog on occasion, and I know have not been tagged, can answer the questions with their best lies...I won't mention any names but their blogs are Urban Fantasy Experience , So You Wannabe a Writer and Straight From Hel .

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just Stuff

Busy day...here's a couple of thoughts from others. This first one is probably either by Robbie McCauley or George Lanning. Either way, it aptly describes the short story vs. the novel:

A short story is like a flare sent into the sky. Suddenly and startlingly, it illuminates one portion of the world and the lives of a few people who are caught in the glare. The light is brief, intense, and contrasts are likely to be dramatic. Then it fades quickly and is gone. But, if it is worth its moment of brilliance, it will leave an enduring afterimage in the mind's eye of the beholder. In contrast, a novel has great luxuries of time and space. It can explore without hurry, develop inevitable currents of action, and watch its people change and mature.

This second one is definitely a rule for any writer to live by:

"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as a painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."
--Truman Capote.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

It was a bit hectic about here on the weekend because of the Father's Day thing. Lots of chores packed into Saturday to avoid doing anything on Sunday. We went to the annual Father's Day Lobster Fest at my sister-in-laws place (see attached photos). A great time was had by all. Only drawbacks were: 1) that my father-in-law showed up there 2 hours early (at 10am) with the lobsters all giddy with excitement about dropping them in the pot). And 2) my parents van conked out on them after the 2 hour drive to get here. Aside from that, all was good.

These are before and after shots of the "to be condemned". Also is a close-up of a caplin, a small fish caught here that is best consumed fried or smoked (as shown). A friend of my father-in-law fishes for lobster and donated 21 to our cause...yum. And don't get the wrong idea. People here don't live off of lobster, or crab, or moose, or caribou, or even arctic hare. You've got to have everything in moderation. Damn! better use up those squirrels before they get freezer burned (just kidding!)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Day at the Circus

I recall going to the travelling circus as a child in our local arena. The animals, the clowns and trapeze artists were all integral to the show. Years have past--lets not talk of how many :) and as an adult I couldn't see myself going to those shows that use animals like that anymore.

The new era of performance is the Cirque du Soleil. My family and I had a great time today at the local arena watching an extravaganza of sight and sound. The show Alegria (according to our friends at Wikipedia) is about the misuse of power, but also a story of hope and perseverance. I have pasted on a couple of images to give you a feel of the show. If you get to a major centre that has a Cirque show, or if the travelling show comes to your city, take advantage and go see it...you won't regret it!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Characterization Checklist

Yes, more information from Alan that was shamelessly taken from class notes. There is no indication of the source of these, so let me know if they sound familiar. Wherever they originated, they are all good questions to be asking yourself while writing.

  1. Look back over a scene or chapter that introduces one or more characters. How much time, if any, have you spent describing the new characters' character? Are you telling us about characteristics that will later show up in dialogue and action?
  2. How about character histories? How many of your characters' childhoods have you developed in detail? Can some of these life stories be cut?
  3. What information (technical details, characters' past histories, backgrounds on locations or families) do your readers need in order to understand your story? At what point in the story do they need to know it?
  4. How are you getting this information across to your readers? Have you given it to them all at once through a short author-to-reader lecture?
  5. If the exposition comes out through dialogue, is it through dialogue your characters would actually speak even if your readers didn't have to know the information? In other words, does the dialogue exist only to put the information across?
  6. If the exposition is through interior monologue, would your characters actually think these thoughts if your readers didn't have to know the information?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Birth and Rebirth of Stories

I am new enough at the writing game to only now be noticing how much a story can change over time. It was only a week ago that I was whining about not getting information from EDF about the fate of a story I had sent them. Ask and thou shalt receive...shortly after that came their rejection letter.

I decided to take another short story that I had been working on and send it back at them the same day. Targeting Hunger and Blue Balloons was sent out under a different name and only 100 words long to Flashshot. It was rejected as it 'didn't fit any of their genres'. Fair enough. I took the story and fleshed it out, bringing it to 800 words. It works for me as a Literary/Fantasy piece and I hope that it works for them.

My second example of story rebirth is a literary piece called The Inscription that started out as a class project at about 500 words. I then expanded it to 1400 words and entered it in the Arts & Letters competition here last year (a provincially funded competition with 5 prizes of $1000). I would give you all the particulars of this, but it's only open to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador...anyway, the story didn't win me a cent. I did get some useful feedback from the judge and revised and expanded it again to just over 2000 words and sent it to a university publication called Paragon. It was rejected there as well. I have just found out about a new competition called The Cuffer Prize in the local newspaper, sponsored by a small publisher. The top prize is $2000, $1000 for second and $500 for third (again, must be a provincial resident). Plus some press coverage. I now am trying to cut is back to its bare essentials to meet the 1200 word maximum. Perhaps third time is the charm (if I may be allowed a cliche). Perhaps its death and rebirth was meant to be.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Home Remedies

When in a pinch, I know that I can always rely on the morning show folks at
K-Rock for a quirky discussion.
They had people call in with home remedies to ailments, so I present you with a short list:

  • Use baking soda and vinegar for poison ivy.
  • Use a bread poultice.
  • Place tea bags over your eyes if suffering from "welder's flash" from being exposed to the bright flame of a welder's torch (near and dear to me, being from the steel building industry).
  • For a bee sting, cut an onion in half and place over the location of the sting.
  • Tie a dirty sock (the dirtier, the better) around your neck to ease a sore throat.
  • To stop a nose bleed, tie a green ribbon (that you received from a stranger) around your neck.

I should add my disclaimer, at this point, in case any of these things make your eyes bleed, or make you smelly, or something like that...try at home AT YOUR OWN RISK...

That being said, I now give you my two personal fav home remedies:

  • Kiss a cow (if you have one handy) on the rear end to cure chapped lips.
  • One caller's elderly grandfather fell of an ATV and had an ear lobe ripped off. To remedy this, his wife glued it back on with turpentine and tree sap...and it worked!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jumpin' on the Doggie Bandwagon

I'm sitting here scratching my head about what to post. I have a bunch of yardwork that has been neglected and I'll be getting to that (sort of). I have always been one to look to others, at times, for inspiration. At Lacuna ex Obscurum, Jameson T. Caine had a nice post yesterday in tribute to his dogs, a pair of Pembroke Welsh Corgis, who were his inspiration for a recent short horror story at Everyday Weirdness.

I therefore feel that I should send a shout out to our 3 year old greyhound called Jet (formerly known as Sharpshooter). He's a large, quiet creature that can run like stink for short bursts and then sleeps for the rest of the day. There are a number of resued greyhounds here that come to the island (by plane) from the group GPAC in Halifax. They are brought to eastern Canada for adoption from kennels involved in racing in the New England states.

I haven't written a story about Jet, but I have put together notes for a horror story about greyhounds in gereral (it presently sits neglected in my "Idea File"). The top photo is of Jet and I along the southern shore in May 2008 when about 14 icebergs drifted into the bay. The middle shot is myself, Jet and our friend's brindle greyhound called Matt.

The bottom picture is of Jet striking a pose, shortly after we adopted him last April. You will notice how lush and green the lawn appears...not any more. These dogs love to run short laps around the yard and the sod flies! Anyhow, I've babbled on enough for now about the dog. And if I may sound a bit like Bob Barker for a moment. I was once an animal control officer (ie. dog catcher) and I always encourage those interested in getting a dog to pick one up from the local animal shelter, pound or SPCA. That is my PSA for today folks!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Words...Thought Provoking, Inspirational

My home page is set to iGoogle and one of the gadgets set up there gives me 4 new quotations a day. I love a good quote. Some are silly, but occasionally they are inspirational and thought provoking. One of yesterdays gems was by Henry David Thoreau..."How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live".

In my last writing class, the instructor noted that when he wrote his novel he kept a notebook with him at all times. On the inside cover was an inspirational saying. Something short and to the point to motivate him. Damned if I can remember what that was! It doesn't really matter, though, as what inspires one is different from another. A couple I heard recently that really struck a chord for me are: "Choices, not chances, determine your destiny" and "Be less discouraged, be more determined".

In "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch, he presented the reader with a lot of information about overcoming adversity to achieve ones goals. One thing that he said was "Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something". I'm sure that anyone who writes has hit a brick wall or two.

Anyway, I'm drifting off into the philisophical...I'll leave off with a couple of favourites of mine that I've got on my Facebook page:

  • "We are all travellers in the wilderness of the world, and the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend" -- Robert Louis Stevenson
  • "Life is what happens when you are making other plans" -- John Lennon

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Alan Harps On, Ad nauseam...

Yes, I did have to check on the spelling of Ad nauseam prior to writing this (Spelling Bee champ I am not). I am going on about the use of horror or any other genre of writing, in whatever medium, to get teens interested in reading (again, linking to Aaron Polson's blog: it did get a lot of response from his readers).

When I think back long ago, prior to the grey hair, I can remember a number of books that really made an impact on me. There's no way that I can list them all but here is a sampling:

  • The Four Feathers (A.E.W. Mason)
  • The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway)
  • The Scarlett Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy)
  • Kim (Rudyard Kipling)
  • The Razor's Edge (Sommerset Maugham)
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne)
  • The Stand (Stephen King)

As you'll notice (aside from the King, probably his best) there is a common theme of adventure stories set mostly in foreign places. I'm not sure if this applies to teen boys (are girls interested in this sort of stuff as well?) but I think that if you capture their imagination at an early age, the love of reading will stay with them for the rest of their lives. That being said, I now have to put this to practice to get my 13 year old son to read a book without the use of a bribe or death threat.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Good Ideas From Others

My mind keeps going back to Aaron Polson's blog from last week about using the stories of Poe (in various medium) to grab the attention of teenage students. He also had a second idea of using horror stories as a way of getting non-reading teens interested.

I think both or these ideas have a lot of merit. Do you want to know what I remember about english class in school? Precsious little...the things that stick in my memory the most are reading something from"The Martian Chronicals" by Ray Bradbury, "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck and "Dracula", by Bram Stoker. Another thing that stays with me today is having watched the horror movie "Reflections of Murder" starring a young Sam Waterston. A tale about the murder of a private school headmaster (set on an island off of Seattle). That scared the crap out of me and surely shaped how I look at horror. I also went on to read a number of Poe's stories (my personal fav is "The Cask of Amontillado"). I appreciate all teachers (Lord knows that I couldn't step up there to face the kids) but I think that there are a few that go above and beyond with their trend setting ideas.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Validation and Procrastination

Yes, those are big words. I am fairly new to the writing world and have learned, and am learning, good things from the blogs of others. There have been a couple of blogs recently about procrastination. I know that all writers have bouts with this. However, I have turned it into an art form. A way of life. Two years ago I became obsessed with a story idea that wouldn't let me alone. I started jotting down notes on paper and tucking them away. Actually writing something proper is another matter. I forced myself to sort the notes and odd scenes into a first chapter. Finally, though, I decided that it would involve too much research (set in the future) and I've tucked it away to focus on short stories. I now have five short stories in various stages of completion waiting for my attention...

One story, Targeting Hunger and Blue Balloons, is very close to completion and only needs a final edit. It's been sitting on my desk for days, shouting out to me for attention as would an ignored child. Such was my avoidance yesterday that I actually went outside and scraped down two sides of our shed in preparation of painting (it seems to have been painted last when Newfoundland was an independent nation and old Queen Vic reigned over the lands).

I blame a bit of my avoidance, I think, on awaiting the fate of another story sent to Every Day Fiction just over two months ago. I have been following EDF for a few months and it seems to be one of the more reputable online publications for people to showcase their work. I would like to send this new story there as well, but I want to know the outcome of the other story first. I guess that it's a validation sort of thing. If I know that my story is acceptable to the folks there, I'll be able to move along and complete the rest of the stories in backlog. Of course that's silly and isn't a practical way for a writer to be, but I suppose that I've got a lot more to learn about this business. Guess that I'll be keeping my day job for a while.

Any how, there is a lot of rain forecast today and I can't use any form of yardwork as an excuse not to finish this story (it's winking at me right now). I shall buckle down and get to work...or perhaps the laundry will get done. And the carpets do need vaccuumed...

Friday, June 5, 2009

...and Once, I Was the Queen of Sheba

Ok, I've got to admit this blogging business has me on to some strange topics. Dissecting of animals, satanists, deadly book piles and ninja cheerleaders. I was hoping that I would come up with a normal idea today. I can always rely on the morning show folks on the radio for interesting banter. Interesting yes, normal no. They mentioned a story about a Dutch psychiatrist practicing in Nepal using past-life therapy to heal issues. I googled that and couldn't find a peep on the Internet. However, it got me thinking about a guy I once met...

It was the early '9os and I was engaged to a woman back in London (Ontario, that is). We'll call her "former ex-fiance or FEF" to protect the innocent. FEF wanted to go visit a farm about 15 minute drive outside of the city. It was supposedly the site where the infamous Donnelly family was murdered back in the 1880. Sure enough, the land owner was more than happy to provide a tour of the site for a modest $20 fee. He was a historian with a specialty on that family and their fate. When the property had come up for sale a couple of years earlier he leaped at the opportunity. We got to see the depression in the ground where the small wooden house once stood (they were murdered in the house and it was set on fire). He showed FEF and I a barn on the site that dates to about that time and casually mentioned that he was in regular contact with one of the murdered Donnelly women. Say what? Yes, he spoke with her spirit. He mentioned that he did past-life regressions for people. I was fascinated by this and was a mere $200 away from finding out who I was of importance in any number of past lives. Was I Hess or DaVinci; perhaps it was St. Francis of Assisi or maybe the Queen of Sheba. Or was I just Bobo the caveman. It's funny that when you hear about this sort of stuff. People always seem to be someone famous. Although, my uncle was once married to a woman who believed she was a witch in a former life. Not a famous witch, just an everyday ordinary witch. Yeah, that would be me. Just a regular guy.
Who would you be?

The Height of Entertainment

As I commented just moments ago over on BT's blog, Musings of an Aussie Writer, I get together on a fairly regular basis with a bunch of guys for "Bad Movie Night". You can't imagine what it looks like to see 7 grown men (a real estate agent, a draftsmen, and assorted university lecturers) sucking back beer and ad-libbing to movies that we're all glad we didn't pay to see.

Last week we watched Roman Polanski's "Fearless Vampire Killers" from 1967. Special, indeed seeing Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate at work. It was indeed awful...I can only hope that the campy comedy was done intentionally. There was a lot of build-up but little of the killing of vampires.

Tonight's main feature (yes, we do watch short features first to put us in the mood) was "Ninja Cheerleaders." Well, what can I say about a movie called that. George Takei (Sulu) was even cast as the ninja sensei to give it a bit of credibility. The three girls are all brilliant junior college students by day. At night they study the ninja arts and then go work as strippers in a club (also owned by George Takei) to pay their way to college. And they fit in time to be cheerleaders for the team. You go girls! Hmm...some would call it the height of entertainment.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Living Under the Tower

I should tell you, faithful reader (and you know who you are) that it was just today that I realised the danger I have been living with. The bedside table has always been a spot to toss the loose paper money and coppers but now there doesn't seem room for even that (not that I've got much cash to put there). The usual clutter: table lamp, telephone, box of tissues, old clock radio, new clock radio from Christmas that I still don't know how to set is now displaced by two stacks of books. Yes reader, I know that you're curious, so I will subject you to the dreaded list.
  • Random Passage by Bernice Morgan (local)
  • When Bells Toll in the North by Freeman Cull (local)
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • This is Not a Book--Adventures in Popular Philosophy
  • Race to Mars (coffee table book)
  • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
  • How to See Yourself as you Really Are by the Dalai Lama
  • Present at the future (controversial conversations on science and nature)
  • The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck
  • Blindness by Jose Saramago
  • Mothership by John Brosnan (sci-fi, not parenting...)
  • Black Order by James Rollins
  • Privileged Information by Stephen White
  • The Hope Valley Hubcap King by Sean Murphy (quirky with Zen flavour)
  • The Barnum Museum by Steve Millhauser (short story collection)
  • Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs (short stories)

And of course on top of the stack are my reading glasses in their case and a note pad in case I get blessed with a story idea (or a weird dream) in the middle of the night. In all the pile is now tall and tilting and at risk of crushing my head as I lay sleeping in bed. I should check my insurance policy as it may be of a quantity that my wife may accidentally bump the night stand with her hip as I sleep...sweet dreams all.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Place Called What?

I'll start off by saying if you are from Newfoundland and have stumbled upon this with the other 2 or 3 known readers--you won't be interested...

I have been living on this strange and wonderful island for nearly 3 years. It is the 15th largest island in the world at 42,000 sq. mi. (compared to Great Britain at 9th spot, 81,000 sq. mi.). It was discovered by John Cabot in 1497 and ownership (after it was taken from the indigenous Beothuk people) was bandied about by the British and French. It ceased being a British Colony in 1949 when it became Canada's 10th province.

The place names are an eclectic mishmash of words reflecting their history. People here are predominately of Irish/Scottish/English heritage. Newfoundland locations such as: Piccadilly, Brighton, Trinity, Torbay and Victoria reflect this. As noted earlier, the French also had a presence as reflected in the names Baie Verte, Channel-Port aux Basques, Grand Bruit and L'Anse aux Meadows.

However, there are other places named after the local wildlife. Hare Bay, Stag Harbour, Salmon Cove and Badger are a reflection of this. Other places, though, have names which are not so easy to decipher: Fogo, Tilting, Witless Bay, Heart's Content and Paradise.

And then...the bizarre: places such as Cow Head, Come By Chance, Nicky's Nose Cove, and the ever popular Dildo are in fact real locations. Hmm...If I were ever to move to the United States I think that only Truth or Consequences would be suitable for me!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Writer's Checklist

I've been looking back at the last couple of posts and see things drifting away from writing: talk of satanists, dissecting creatures, urban legends. Guess that I should take a few minutes to stray back on topic. I was looking through the class notes from my first session with Ed Kavanagh. There were some good bits to pass along. Truth be told, I believe these are mainly from "The Art of Fiction", by John Gardner and "The Art and Craft of Novel Writing," by Oakley Hall.

  • Writing should engage the senses. Be concrete rather than abstract, particular rather than general.
  • Write with nouns and vigorous Anglo-Saxon derived verbs rather than with adjectives and adverbs.
  • Disperse with the "little qualifiers". a little, a bit, rather, sort of, kind of, quite, very, pretty (as in much), slightly, mostly, etc.
  • Beware of the word "there". It is a deadener of prose.
  • Except in special circumstances choose the active over the passive voice.
  • Put statements in positive form.
  • Omit needless words.
  • Beware of the extended use of the habitual case: would. Ex. In the morning he would leap out of bed early, he would don his boots and slosh down a cup of coffee. Usually he would fight with his wife, then he would go outside with his shotgun.
  • Strive to make the mechanics of writing invisible.
  • Beware of shifts in diction level.
  • Strive for sentence variety and focus.
  • Beware of faulty rhythm.
  • Beware of accidental rhyme.
  • Beware of comma-spliced "run-on" sentences. Split long sentences in two or make appropriate use of the semicolon.
  • Never explain needlessly.
  • Beware of the inappropriate use of introductory phrases containing infinite (ing) verbs: "Looking up slowly from her sewing, Martha said..."
  • Avoid cliches.

OK. Enough of that. Public service announcement for today has concluded.