• Who We Are

  • Schedule

    Mondays ~
    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
    Wednesdays ~ Dreamer
    Thursdays ~ Naughty
    Fridays ~ Dreary
    Saturdays ~
    Sundays ~

    Whenever ~ Smokey, Mighty, Eerie and Wicked

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • Kinetic’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Eerie’s Tweets

  • Mighty’s Tweets

Finding my Story with my Fists

I recently had the opportunity to attend a self-defense class from some experienced law enforcement officers. I have taken a couple classes previously, but this one focused on how to defend and attack using a knife. The mom in me struck and attacked like a mama bear learning how to defend her young. While the writer in me cheered in anticipation of adding more kick a*# fight scenes to my current WIP.

Self Defense Class

My sister-in-law kicking him where it counts.

One of my instructors had an extensive history in the martial arts for over 20 years, including training in Kenpo, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do and Israeli Martial arts. He was also currently a SWAT team member. The stories he related from actual incidences helped me dismiss some of the myths we often see in fiction.

One myth I had in particular was about stealing a knife. I have often read or watched where the hero steals the knife and uses it against the attacker. In real life, it is never that easy. The police, SWAT, and basic armed forces do not train in taking a knife from an attacker. The weapon can move to quick and is not worth the effort. It is better to take down the attacker in other ways while protecting vital areas. It was a great class to learn the best defense against a knife, the best method in striking, and the time it takes for someone to go down from certain wounds.

I encourage writers to get out and get moving: ride a horse, let an arrow fly, or watch a sunset. You may just learn something.

Reading for Writers…

In surfing through the writer communities I am allowed to be in (yes, allowed is the correct term here, think of who’s writing this, peeps!), I’ve noticed a comment that seems to be uttered often.  It goes along the lines of this:

“Writers who read are better writers for it.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of thought writers were avid readers. I mean, we create these worlds, give birth to characters that are more real than our family, and create plots that make spiders weep because we are storytellers.  How can one hone the cutting edge of their craft if they don’t constantly rub against the skilled whetstone of others around them?

Yes, writing can be a solitary art, but still…

If you don’t read, in your genre, in other genres, new and old authors, fiction and non-fiction, how on earth can you learn what works and what doesn’t?

Discovering new voices can spark the germ of a unique idea for you.  Perhaps after reading a first person point of view story told by the family pet, a germ of an idea on how you can create a unique POV for your own story will begin to take root.

Maybe the way one author’s turn of phrase captures your heart enough for you to dabble in the art of languages.

Perhaps some unique historical happening suddenly has you asking, “What if?” and viola! A story begins.

Writers find inspiration in a number of areas–music, TV, movies, society, newspapers, PEOPLE magazine, you name it, we’re good at finding creative sparks. Yet, maybe it’s just me, but I find some of my best ideas come about because I read EVERYTHING.  Fiction. Non-Fiction. Urban Fantasy. Erotic. Romance. Military Suspense. Mystery. Thriller. Horror. Exposes on old government groups. Reports on scientific trends and developments. You name it, I’ll read it. I go no where with out my Kindle or an actual book.

What makes your creative spark light?

Prepping for NaNo…

Welcome back, Swamp visitors!  I hope you enjoyed last week’s jaunt into the wonderful world of new writers.  I hope you found something wickedly cool to add to your reading lists! 

In honor of the looming presence of NaNo, I thought I’d share a bit of my prep experience for this year with you.  Yes, I know, a pantser who preps? What an oxymoron.  Except I’m finding it necessary before I dive head long into the roaring abyss of NaNo next week. 

Writing by the seat of your pants is not only a creative whirlwind, but it’s terrifying.  Here’s why:  when you get stuck, you get stuck and sometimes you can’t tell up from down and start digging deeper into the mire of fragmented concepts and useless plot points. I call myself a pantser, but in actuality, I cheat because I do plot out the major plot points.  You know the ones, this happens in the first third to start the ball rolling, this happens in the second third because this is where everything is going to change for the characters, and this has to happen in the last third because now that my characters have a new reality, this is how it will solve the problem.

Since I’m stuck just past the first third of Shadow’s Moon, I have been paying attention to various blogs about structure and plot and planning.  I know, I know, I can hear the screams of denial from my fellow pantsers–but really, what else can you do if you want your story to work?

As I continue to write and improve my craft, I’m discovering that the OCD that rules my life in every other aspect, is starting to bleed over.  Not as much as it can, but enough so that yes, I am preparing for NaNo to make sure I can get unstuck and tuck Shadow’s Moon under the “completed” section of my writing checklist.   I am going back to make sure that I have down my characters’ motivations, what’s driving my protagonist and why, where is the central conflict (romance or mystery?), what other conflict layers are there (and there are more than one!), what are my three major turning point that change my characters’ goals/motivations, drive their darkest moments, and then enable them to beat the bad guy. 

Do you see how the picture is starting to form.  Not really an outline per se, but more of road map.  I’m hoping it will allow me to keep my pantser identity, but I have a feeling no successful writer is really a true pantser, because at some point we all have to plot.

Because I’ll be swimming with the NaNo sharks all of November, my blogs will just be a word count with maybe one or two sentences (if I can form them) on what’s happening.  Keep your fingers crossed I survive NaNo and bring forth some awesome habits and new writing skills! 

Now onto NaNo!

PS: If you want to add me to your NaNo buddy list, feel free! I’m at NaNo Wrimo under Jami Gray!

–Wicked

My Evil Plot

Okay, it’s probably not evil, but for me plotting is evil. I am a panster at heart and I find it very difficult to force myself to have a cohesive plan. But after last week’s revelation I decided I needed to try something different. Now that I have Scrivener (plotters personal holy grail) I have no reason not to give it a go. For those of you not familiar with Scriviner it has a side bar where you can can put various chapters/scenes/notes/research all in a cohesive manner. This is difficult to explain so I highly recommend checking out a Youtube video or going to http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ to browse a bit. 

I also decided I needed to analyze my characters more and decided to see what the web had to offer me. I found this character worksheet http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/p/character-worksheet.html and have begun the process of psychoanalyzing my characters which is both fun and tedious. I have to admit I am learning a lot about my characters. For instance I had no idea that Peg’s favorite color was orange or that she was a big Stephen King fan. She also collects tea cups (fun fact for all of you). 

So far this journey has been fun and I have to admit my favorite part is finding all of these wonderful tools online. Writer’s are truly fortunate these days because we have so much information at our finger tips. That is if we have access to the internet (I’m going to assume that you do if your reading my post). I have found a lot of things this past week that I believe will make my novel rock my socks off and hopefully one day a larger audience. 

To NaNo or Not To NaNo?

Did you see that blur? Were you able to make out the bits of green of Spring 2012? Or the shimmery waves of heat of Summer 2012?  Did you miss the burnished coppers of the impending Fall 2012?  I sure did.  As a matter of fact, when I bothered to poke my head up lately, do you know what was staring back at me?

NaNo.

Oh yes, it is time to start wondering the age-old question-To NaNo or not to NaNo.

Last year, I wimped out.  I used the fact I was tying up Shadow’s Soul not to participate, but let’s be honest…NaNo is intimidating.

For those of you not familiar with NANO, never fear, it will soon become the relative/friend who dropped by for a night and didn’t leave for years.  NaNo is National Writing Novel Month and is also identified by the name NaNoWriMo.  It happens every November–no matter if the Mayans are correct or not, it will still be here in 2013.  It will haunt your computer, stalk you in the wee hours of the morning, and taunt you late at night while you’re enjoying your primetime shows.  It whispers to you–“Come on, you know you could be putting these voices to paper here!”  One month, where every day you write-1 line or 1,000, doesn’t matter. What matters is you write–no Inner Editors allowed. They’ve been banned to the kiddie table in the corner and they are not allowed to speak.

So although I’m still working on Shadow’s Moon, trying desperately to drag it to completion by the end of the year, I’m actually starting to listen to the sibilant whispers of NaNo. Perhaps I’ll start doing some research, sit down for coffee with some characters and poke around, play God and create some new worlds…tempting.

Anyone else out there starting to get the itch to prepare?  Are you looking at a HazMat suit to get through it or are you more the flip-flop and Hawaiian shirt type? C’mon, share…we want to know who else is going to go insane in November.

PS–Come on over to Cynthia Woolf’s place on the 25th of August as I pop over for an interview.  If you comment you get a chance to win something cool!

 

–Wicked

WHERE DO WRITERS GET INSPIRATION?

Greetings and Salutations loyal blog readers,

This week we’re going to talk about the creative aspect of writing.  But first let me catch you up on the happenings around the Swamp.  I’ve been very busy with my free range organic zombie business.  Since Zombies are in big demand for films and scientific study I’m doing well in that part of my life.  It pays the bills.  Sadly my writing has dropped off because there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Just last week I filled an order for three thousands units for the new season of The Walking Dead.

I put Mischievous Raven in charge of marketing for Blue Moon Zombies, so he’s been traveling about getting orders.  I have to say his gift for talking has finally found its niche.  I will have to talk to him about his expense account when he returns however.

Miss G. Anna Conda sent us a post card from Brazil where she is currently starring in a documentary about the worlds deadliest snakes.  I think Anna likes the attention, but she too complained of not having any time to pursue her first love, which is painting for her. 

The leeches are boycotting because of our so-called political incorrectness and the use of clichés like “That guy is a blood sucking leech.”  They claim the media treats them badly.  And they  want the word parasite removed from the dictionary.  I mean really, what’s next.

Well let’s move on to our topic.  Where do those ideas come from?  I’m going to start with an excerpt from a short story called Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King.

“…creative people aren’t always in charge.  And when they do their best work, they’re hardly ever in charge.  They’re just sort of rolling along with their eyes shut, yelling Wheeee.”

That is the perfect explanation of how my stories get written.  And it doesn’t take long for horrific things to start happening.  But every story needs a place to start.  A seed to germinate in the writer’s mind.  For me that could be an image, a photo or a drawing.  Sometimes it’s a news story from which I draw out the smallest of threads.

I heard about a trans-continental train getting stranded in the Canadian Rockies.  That was the only fact I heard, and from that I put together an idea for a novel that I haven’t yet started working on.  This minuscule fact could lead in so many different directions.  The possibilities are infinite.  If ten people started to write a story from this kernel it could be a man against the elements, it could be a terrorist thriller, or a romance, a werewolf story, or even a romantic werwolf story.  Unrequited love and all that.

The point here is this.  Ideas are floating around at your fingertips every moment of everyday, and if you’re a writer, all you have to do is grasp one and plant it in your brain.  Ideas are mundane in the wrong hands.  Two non writers talking: 1st guy “Hey,did you here about the train that was stuck in the Canadian Rockies?” 2nd guy “Yeah, I wonder if they ran out of Champagne.”  They chuckle and move on.

It is the job of the writer to turn that into something interesting or horrific.  If like me that’s where your mind tends to go.  In a creative writing class we were given a random page from a magazine and twenty minutes to write a story based on the image.  To my surprise the room filled with groans.  I had a photo of a mid teens boy and girl.  It was probably selling the clothes they were wearing.  I wrote a story of siblings forced to pose for a photo while their separate  groups of friends looked on.

Dictionary definition of Writing: the activity or skill of making coherent words on paper and composing text:  

It is so much more than that.  Writing gives me the freedom to take my characters anywhere and everywhere.  To place them in impossible situations, and let them crack jokes about it after they find a way out.  The idea is the seed.  Characters grow the seed, they water it, prune it, stomp it into the ground and nurture back to life.  Living breathing characters take your mundane idea and scare the wax right out of your ears.  (No Q-tips required).

Since we are on a roll here, next Friday we’ll talk about characters and maybe the Horror genre.  Today I’ll leave you with an excerpt from a poem by Charles Bukowski.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you

in spite of everything,

don’t do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your mouth

and your gut,

don’t do it.

Until next week, Write On,

Eerie Dwarf

New Year, New Story…

Okay so the New Year has arrived and it’s time to get back to writing.  Shadow’s Soul is out being eviscerated, I mean critiqued, by the other Evil Six so I decided to start the year off write…I began to plot out Raine and Gavin’s next adventure.

But to get to this point took time.  Here’s a little insight into the schizophrenic maze known as a writer’s mind. 

I’ve spent the last few weeks prepping the Prankster Duo, the knight in slightly muddy armor, and the hellhound for the holidays.  We had to hunt down holiday gifts, bind them and then deliver them out to the other Swamp residents.  The Swamp Thing family has had a rough time this season so we had to sneak in late one night to leave their gift on the doorstep in an effort not to be dragged into their “martial discussions”. The Prankster Duo managed to get in and get out without any major setbacks (fires, explosions, dismemberment, etc.) while delivering Smokey, Quirky and Jedi’s gifts.  The knight and I took on the tougher residents. Evading Snarky’s newest whip was perilous and dropping off Eerie and Mischievous’ gifts, well I won’t go into detail. Suffice to say the hellhound was in need of some bone therapy afterwards, and knight’s armor had a few more dents to add to his collection.  Don’t tell Eerie, but I think I lost a blade to one of the shambling hordes.

Regardless, we made it through the season.  The Prankster Duo has increased their weaponry supply with some new additions and they’ve been tormenting the zombies scuffling through the Swamp.  The hellhound was quite pleased with his decapitated duck and unidentified leg bone.  Overall it was a lovely Holiday!

While hunting down and setting sneaky traps for our holiday gifts, I decided to pare down the towering pile of nightstand books and got caught up with some of my favorite stories.  When I finished with that, it was time to face the ominous quest looming on my horizon… the creation of my next book.

For those not familiar with a writer, let me explain why your writer friends seem to morph into bi-polar maniacs with multiple personalities in-between their Works in Progress (aka WIPs).  We all fear the blank page or screen that mocks us with its whiteness. 

Typing the last word on your last story is a relief, until you realize you have to start all over again.  Regardless if you’re doing a stand-alone or a series, beginning a story is terrifying.  Let’s follow along with my neurosis as I begin a new WIP.

First question that hits—can I do it?  Can I really get another three to four hundred pages that will keep a reader on the edge of their seat? Am I all tapped out? Was writing that last book, was that it?

A few deep breaths and a handful of chocolate later I’ve managed to smash that stupid voice into silence.  Yes, I’m a writer, damn it, I can do this.  I’ve done it before.

Next question—so do I continue with Raine and Gavin or do I let other characters have their own story? Should I go back to that other story line and take a break from Raine? If I continue with Raine, I’ll have to pitch to my editor for book three, if I don’t I’ll have to go back out to the vicious world of pitches and throw myself on the mercy of another editor.  What to do?

I re-read the 125 pages I have of the other WIP and it hits me…this isn’t going to work without some major re-writing.  Where do I start? Should I throw it away and just start from scratch? I mean, I really like some of it, but other parts are going to have me sporting a Sinead O’Connor look real quick.  Oh man, maybe it’s not so smart to go back to that one just yet….okay let’s think about Raine. 

What do I need to do next? Where is the overall story arc going? Every book has to accomplish something or why write their story? Fine, let’s torment the newly established couple, throw in some twists and turns and then…miracle of miracles, words are spitting across the page.  A plot emerges.  This is good, I haven’t lost the ability yet. 

Okay so I have a plot, but I’m still thinking this year I’d like to get two books done, so where do I focus?  How do I choose which gets to be done first? The massive re-write or begin Raine’s latest adventure?

Dear God I think the voices in my head are going to stomp my brain into mush and it will leak out of my ears and then neither story will get written.  ARRRGHHH!!!

I manage to piece together Raine’s story and I’m turning over how to re-write the other story, but in the meantime those around me are giving me a wide berth.  Maybe it’s the fact I’m continuously mumbling under my breath while wildly gesturing to get the voices to lower to a dull roar, or maybe it’s the fact that while eating a lovely dinner with family, I blurt out, “She’s being hunted by a psychic psychopath!”

Chairs scrape a few more inches away from me, the Prankster Duo just shake their heads, and knight simply responds in a gently voice, “Do you want some more chocolate, babe?”

And the year has barely begun…

Wicked!

Agatha Christie’s Notebooks

When I first started writing one of the pieces of conventional wisdom for writers was to keep a journal. Well, I tried–many times in fact. I purchased books on journaling. I purchased blank journals of all descriptions, from the everyday schoolbook to the fancy leather covered works of art.

The results were uniform. I’d write in them for a few days, and then quickly tapper off to nothing.

The reasons?

• I wasn’t happy with my cursive handwriting.
• I tried too hard to make nice sentences.
• I stopped frequently to lookup words.
• What I was writing in the journal provided little help for my current WIP.
• And the worst? I tried writing as though someone else would read my entries.

What a revelation then to read ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ by John Curran. The 73 notebooks were discovered after the death of Agatha Christie’s daughter. They are plain school composition workbooks. Her handwriting described as ‘chicken scratches’, and she miss-spelled many words without bothering to look them up. She rarely bothered to write in complete sentences.

What she did do is use the notebooks as a sounding board. She worked out plots, characters, settings, etc., frequently arguing with herself about the merits of various ideas. She used them to work out scene outlines as well as details such as the effects of various poisons.

She apparently never figured anyone would ever read the notebooks, so felt free to let her thoughts roam where they would.

It is interesting to see how her stories developed from a simple fragment/thought to a well plotted, character rich story.

Bottom line?

I’m going to give journaling another shot with some cheap composition books using her approach to thought collecting. And, of course, I’m recommending John Curran’s book to anyone interested in the subject.

If it works out for me, I’ll report back in the future. If it doesn’t…

Smokey Dwarf

Research

Here I sit, recovering from the all-nighter watching the Royal Wedding.

Why in the world would I do that? Is it really in Smokey Dwarf’s character to watch weddings?

Not in the normal course of things. The Royal Wedding, however, provided an amazing opportunity to research tidbits sure to be useful in future tales of epic fantasy set in a medieval time zone.

The church service for the royal couple alone provided much insight into the difference between the commoner and the king. The language used and the points made by the Arch Bishop certainly would not have been heard at one of our weddings.

Also of interest for future tales, besides the food, were how some of the costumes were designed and made—especially the uniforms of the groom and his best man.

The church itself provided many ideas for future settings.

So what am I getting at this week? Simply that research opportunities exist everywhere. It’s not always necessary to bury yourself in the dusty archives of the local castle or google yourself into a frenzy. Keep an eye on current events and your favorite news station.

Smokey

PS–That’s my story and I’m so sticking to it… 😉

Creativity Starters?

1. Talking with the characters. This always brings surges of creativity and fosters a foundation for new ideas and possible directions with the story. Occasionally, though, the characters and I have disagreements–which I’m still learning I will never win. But, even then, the discussions break down mental barriers which further the flow of creativity. So, it’s all good.

2. Music. This is a guaranteed ticket to a ride on the creativity train. Everything from the melody to the lyrics in music spark deep creative ideas and fuels the desire to write.  For instance, the song I’m listening to right now–Letters from the Sky by Civic Twilight–is putting pictures and ideas into my head. It’s helping me connect to my characters on a whole new level and get a sense of their emotions, their desires. They are, after all, human beings too. The more I know them, the more I know myself, the better I can write.

3. Reading. Sounds simple enough, right? This one is a double-edged sword. Reading amazing books, or screenplays, or poetry inspires me to reach higher and write. However, I occasionally feel like a complete ass for thinking I could ever write (or aspire to write) as well as the material I’m reading. Feelings of inadequacy have to be slain quickly, lest they take root and begin to spread. Fantastic writing is inspiring on one hand, and poses a great challenge on the other. As a writer, I embrace them both–hopefully improving my own writing while slaying the self-doubt demons that threaten creativity.

4. Strong emotions. Whether it’s anger or joy or anything in between, if the emotion is intense, it often ignites the creativity part of my brain into action.

5. Nothing at all. Sometimes…seemingly out of nowhere…creativity sparks. Like it has a mind of its own. I love those times.

Sunny Dwarf –alter ego of Gabrielle Taylor

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