Monthly Archives: February 2012

Hark! Yonder Echoes the Cry of the Wild Noob!

I spent five long, intense days working on publishing MEMORY’S CHILD as an e-book. I did a final edit, formatted the manuscript and – at long last – uploaded to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.
The editing wasn’t that bad. After all, I’ve been editing MC for about 20 years, now. The formatting, however, was a nightmare. I understand why so many formatting businesses are available on the Internet. I may yet hire one to format the prequel to MC when it’s ready.
As a learning experience, getting the manuscript finalized, dedication and acknowledgements written, plus the copyright and disclaimer information done was invaluable.
Now I know how the process works and I know how long it takes for a book to go from upload to “on sale.”
Since Sunday or Monday (the whole thing is a blur, now), when I uploaded MEMORY’S CHILD to Smashwords, my final goal, I’ve been exploring the realm of networking.
I started a new Twitter account, an author’s page on Facebook, posted links everywhere I could think of to Kindle, Nook and Smashwords, worked in a couple of reviews of other authors’ books and still had to get my animal rescue articles and videos done for Examiner and a local TV station website.
In doing that, I repeatedly ran across blogs, Tweets, Facebook posts and various and sundry other tidbits written by some of the authors I know. I’m exhausted!
Now, the only question I have (and I ask it with a high-pitched, quavering wail) is: how do they find time to write books?

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Old Saws, Slang and Shakespeare

The most fascinating thing about studying Shakespeare, first in high school (where I had no choice) and then in college (where I actually wanted to do this), was his use of slang.

I was, and remain, amazed at how much of the slang and adages Shakespeare used to long ago are still alive in our vernacular today. I don’t know which expressions originated with good ol’ Bill, but finding these nuggets in the midst of other, often arcane expressions, is great fun.

Many slang expressions and adages, which are also called “old saws,” fall out of fashion in the natural ebb and flow of our living language. Slang appears and disappears from common usage, often with no rhyme or reason.

While most readers recognize the phrase, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio” (even though many add well after him), or “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” how many know that the phrase, “All of a sudden” was coined by Shakespeare?

Many book and movie titles also borrow from Shakespeare. The Winter of Our Discontent, Band of Brothers (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”), The Dogs of War (“cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war”) and others take advantage of Shakespeare’s innovative and clever use of language.

Besides, it’s far easier to summon an old saw like one fell swoop than to come up with a new one.

While we may laugh at some of the slang we used in the past, like groovy, these outmoded words and expressions can be useful when you are writing a story set in that timeframe. A novel or short story with a 60’s setting is more believable when you sprinkle some of that era’s slang, especially slang no one uses anymore.

I wonder what words and expressions coined in our lifetime will still be in use 200 years from now.

Is This Winter?

Being a Southerner, I’m not a fan of cold weather. Having been raised by Yankees, I’m not a big fan of very hot weather, either. I need to move someplace that stays comfortably cool all year ’round.

ImageThe best thing about living in the South is that we often have mild, even balmy winters. I like to sit outdoors when the weather is cool-to-warm, and spend time thinking about characters, plots and settings. Daydreaming, in other words.

Half an hour or an hour outdoors is usually enough to get the creative juices flowing smoothly, and I can spend the next few hours working on whatever writing needs doing or whatever writing I want to do. The two are not necessarily the same.

While lolling around in the warm afternoon sun today, I spotted two trees in glorious bloom up the street, so I strolled over and took a photo. I know what these flowers are, but their name escapes me. Their heady scent is at once earthy and spicy. I cut a small branch and set it in a vase on my writing desk to chase the shadows of winter away.

The flowers’ subtle scent and bright presence lightened both my workspace and my mood, and made today’s editing chores less onerous.

Try making a small change to your writing environment now and then. Put different photos in the frames on and around your desk. Swap out that dreary CFL lightbulb for a brighter light that more closely emulates true daylight. Lay a brightly-colored table runner over the far end of the desk and arrange photos and a knickknack or two along its length.

You might be surprised at how big an impact a small change can make on your creativity level.

Idea Germ: Digging Up Bones

Documentaries are some of my favorite television shows. I especially enjoy documentaries on animals, history and true crime. Shows about archaeological digs and paleontology top my list of must-see programming, but I have to admit that I cast a jaundiced eye on some of the “finds.”

Years ago, I read that some mistakes were made when experts assembled a dinosaur skeleton or two. They even put the wrong skull on a skeletal body. Everything I thought I knew about what dinosaurs looked like was…sullied.

When the horror subsided, the revelation made me wonder what other mistakes have colored our view of the world’s checkered past?

For instance, you may see an archaeologist painstakingly unearth a large shard of pottery, show it to the camera and intone authoritatively, “This is a piece of a specific type of water jug used only in Pompeii’s surprisingly efficient kitchens.”

Really? What if you’re wrong? What if the ghost of the jug’s owner is hovering nearby, laughing her ectoplasm off because she used that jug for storing the doodoo her dog deposited during their walks through Pompeii’s poshest neighborhood?

Or the archaeologist holds up a small bit of metal and pronounces it part of a crude tool used by Early Man to skin buffalo. The archaeologist holds up a drawing for the viewers of what the tool probably looked like. Well, what if the archaeologist is wrong? What if the metal goes to a cracker tin the archaeologist doesn’t realize Early Man knew how to make?

There is no such thing as a Brontosaurus, you know. That was one of the mistakes of Early Scientists. I liked the animal just fine when I thought it was a Brontosaurus, and now I’m disillusioned about the whole dinosaur thing.

Which brings me to the idea germ. Generations from now, when our descendants dig up our cities’ remains and discover the de rigueur “time capsule” entombed in so many public buildings, will they know what the contents are? What will they think of a rotary telephone, should they find one intact?

“This,” the Archaeologist of Tomorrow intones as he carefully cradles the fragile item, “was buried with our ancestors’ dead. In the early part of the 18th Century, Man believed he could communicate with his ancestors using this device.” He doesn’t even get the century right.

Considering the fact that we currently manufacture plastics and other items that take a zillion years to decompose, I wonder what our descendants will make of the treasures to be found in the landfill.

Could an “O” from a giant, plastic Coca-Cola sign be identified as some type of portal? “We recently unearthed a perfectly preserved window used in the late 1900s for what was then called affordable housing.”

I don’t think it is safe to assume that technology will continually move forward and written and video records of our current mastery of this planet will always

No, it isn’t a Brontosaurus. It’s really an Apatosaur. Photo courtesy of Jim Daly of the UK on Stock .xchng

be available. What if the vital information our descendants seek is on a Betamax tape, or inscribed on the hard drive of a Coleco Adam? In 200 years, the fate of the world could conceivably (okay, barely conceivably) be decided by a series of text messages sent between two important scientists’ cell phones. What if the archaeologists don’t realize the batteries need charging and the devices need to be turned on?

In MEMORY’S CHILD, set well into the future, there is no technology left on the planet. No cities, either. Will our descendants know us only by our ruins, or by our time capsules and landfills? And, oh, yes, what about that “O” from an ancient Coca-Cola sign?

Have Yourself a Merry Little Wordspree

When I announced on Facebook that I’d signed up for a blog on WordPress, my darling son responded with his usual plethora of misspellings, including “Wordpree.”

I told him his typo would be great if he added an “s” before the “p” to make “Wordspree.”

Writing is exactly that: a wordspree. Or at least, it should be. While any writer will tell you that this is a particularly difficult, brain-labor-intense profession, it is also tremendous fun, especially for fiction writers.

Really. You can make up cities, states or entire worlds. You get to make people laugh, cry, commit acts of supreme generosity and humanity, or acts of supreme cruelty and hate. You get to fall in love with a character and cry when you kill her off.

Through the characters you create, you can buy jewels, the finest clothes and the fastest cars, or pawn those jewels, wear smelly rags and live in a car. It’s up to you.

Well, it’s up to you right up until the moment your characters “come to life” and begin making choices of their own.

Throw yourself a wordspree today. Sit down – stand up, if you think better that way – and give the words permission to flow directly to the page. Toss your inhibitions in the trash. Set your imagination free. Remove all boundaries of convention and civility and let ‘er rip.

Whether your write longhand, like me, or on a computer keyboard, just do it. Write.