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Today’s Mondays Muse… 

​Jamie Raintree from  “The Motivatef Writer”gets all the credit for this one!

Thanks much Janie, for asking the question and giving up the dirt.

“Monday Goals! What are you working on this week?  I need to finish up my synopsis for Book 2 and–dare I say?–get back to writing it? If I say it out loud, will something else pop up? Lol!”

And so I ask too…what are you all working on today??? For me, first this, next the novel! 

Bring it, Monday!


So I’d finish that story but…

Hi all, and so glad to be back!

If you follow me you may have wondered why I’ve been MIA in the blogosphere for the last month or so. Well, thanks to several big events, including finishing up the semester, filing a thesis and slamming so hard on the kickboxing bag that two of my toes broke in half, I guess you could say I’ve been a little preoccupied. Pain meds can put a girl out of commission, but fast!

But thanks to a little time and TLC I’m on the mend and back on the writing wagon. And today I’m sharing an interesting guest article I stumbled across while perusing author Kristen Lamb‘s Blog, written by guest author/ teacher Dr. John Yeoman,  “Can’t keep up? 7 brilliant ways to finish your story.”  (https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/cant-keep-up-7-brilliant-ways-to-finish-your-story/).

Having been stuck myself many times, and in fact currently stuck somewhere in the middle of what started a very promising story, these tips couldn’t come at a better time. And I’m willing to guess we’ve all been there at some point. You know the story. You get part of the way through what you think is going to be a terrific read. Great story line, clever opening, interesting characters. But then somewhere along the line, boom! You’re stuck in writer oblivion, with some combination of paralyzing fear that the end won’t match up to your exciting start and or that the plot lines won’t converge into reason but instead morph off into convoluted confusion making your reader want to run screaming for the nearest exit.

But, never fear, Dr. Yeoman’s tips are here to save the day, especially tips # 2,”Devise your own Scrivener program and #3, “Try the ‘bricolage’ technique.” In tip #2, Yeoman writes:

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” Imagine a corkboard on your wall. In one corner, you’ve pinned character descriptions. In another, scene settings. Somewhere else you’ve stuck pictures, plot outlines, dramatic incidents, crumbs of dialogue… links to web resources…videos and even music…Now imagine that corkboard on your computer. Here’s the link to Scrivener…  Once learnt, it’s wonderful. Problem is, Scrivener takes time to learn…too technical for newbies and its built-in word processing program is, compared to Word, primitive. Solution? Build your own Scrivener using the ‘sticky notes’ utility that may be on your computer right now.”

Great advice, which this past winter, I tried. Gave it a valiant effort, but, as he points out, there’s a definite learning curve to learning Scrivener. And try as I might, I couldn’t muster the patience to sort it out. And working on an Apple meant the “sticky notes” utility Yeoman talks available on Microsoft’s PC, wasn’t an option. However, I found an alternate, more simple version of Scrivener called Storyist, (a good comparison of the two is here at http://theroguewriter.tumblr.com/post/69136060617/storyist-vs-scrivener). Indeed, a less intense, simplified format, easier to digest and quicker to get up and running. It  may not do every single thing that Scrivener can, but it has enough similar features to make your story easy to organize and visually keep track of, like a corkboard, and separate character and scene sheets and is well worth your time looking into. A tad more expensive, but for those of us who get overwhelmed with too many details, it is a great option and will help keep you on track.

As for Yeoman’s tip #3, writing your main plot points, and even as I do, chapter summaries, on index cards is just plain brilliant:

“Stop scribbling on paper. (Those little bits get lost.) Start writing on file cards. Why? Cards are durable. You can keep them in your handbag or back pocket, ready to hand for whenever an idea strikes you. As soon as they bulge out of your pocket, toss them on the carpet and play solitaire.”

I started doing this about six months ago, on the advice of another award-winning author. Only I do them one for one, that is one chapter summary for each side of a card. I write as much as I can scribble onto one side of a 4′ 6 plain index card. That way, I’m forced to capture the essence of my chapter in as few words as possible and can then organize and re-shuffle them at will as a sort of guidepost through my longer works like my novel. That way I can quickly flip through them to look for plot holes, character inconsistencies and chapter points of view. This keeps me on track and reminds me of both where I’ve been, and where I’m going. Worst case scenario, if I need to take a long break from the work I have my story organized into small chunks that can smooth out getting back into it. And like Yeoman notes, the cards are easy enough to cart around, keep in your backpack and jot down new ideas as they strike. And if the muse isn’t striking, well there’s always that card game to deal out.

I’d love to see some action here and here all about your own methods of madness for finishing those tall tales. As always, all thoughts are welcome!

Ciao for now, 

Lisa

Friday’s Flash: The storm before the calm…

 

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A Spring Friday in New York City brings promise of good things yet to come. But I’m more interested in what came before the calm…what might be buried deep underneath this blissful thaw…

Have we got a jogger perhaps, who tripped and fell during winter in the ice packed snow and being alone and without his cell, couldn’t dig himself out in time? Did he break his ankle and couldn’t move, while the ice, rain then dirt washed away all traces of his being??

Or perhaps, a lone German Shepard wandering loose from her home, got caught up in the freezing cold temps that NY winter can bring and broke through the frozen solid over the now thawed over river in the foreground. Her body only now floating up to the top to be seen by passers by…

Or, contemplate the down and out homeless dude begging on a park bench, waiting for something, anything to fall his way, and finally getting nothing, laid down and gave up, NYPD only now finding his remains in the thaw…

What’s your take? I’d luv to hear. Untwist those brain sparks and contemplate,

The storm Before the calm…

 

 

Are bad things happening on your pages…

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So, today’s muse comes fresh off a Guest Blog post by author James Preston at Writers in The Storm.com called “Is The Music Bad, Mommy? Tips For Doing Bad Things To Your Characters” (http://writersinthestormblog.com.)

Preston’s post hit home for this author, as I am in the midst of creating chaos for my main girl, and have been debating back and forth on just how bad it should be.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being Disney, and ten invoking images of Freddy Cougar doing his worst on those fateful Halloween nights, I started out somewhere in between with a happy medium. In my current novel in progress, my protagonist has been set up with a dismal past that is currently coming back to haunt her. However, that past has been reworked several times now. Ahh, the fun and games here, which you, my fellow scribes, can no doubt relate to. Such is the glory, and guts, of revision!

So first, my girl’s past had all to do with a dodgy ex, who led her like a carrot to a rabbit, down the hole and off to the anticipated, and heavily pre-marketed pot of overflowing gold. Which of course left her dangling, with nothing to hold onto when she finally did get there. It was okay, but it didn’t seem as Preston might put it, quite “bad” enough. So I re-worked it. And Voila, out popped an even more dodgy history with seriously dark and evil secrets lurking in the closets, all of which now are coming out of said closets, and are dangling her angst even more precariously and hopefully, will keep a reader guessing as to which way it will eventually blow, and will she still be standing when it does.

It’s good. Better even. But the question still haunts me. Is it good enough to pass Preston’s “bad music” test? Will it make the readers eyes burn up the pages and their fingers keep turning as they must, absolutely must know, with certainty, that she’ll either be okay, or not! And aren’t’ they all secretly hoping for not, at least for a gripping short-term few chapters? As Preston so aptly put it, with a nod to the true King of super bad himself,

“As writers, we need to be brave, for we must first create characters we like, and then send them into situations where the music is very bad indeed, and watch as they struggle,…as they succeed or fail because that stress is what makes a story work. It is the engine that drives the writing bulldozer that Steven King talks about.”

I like the analogy because, like a bulldozer, our stories must have sufficient dirt to clean up after. Without the dirt, grime, and grit, the scenery is pretty and there’s nothing to doze! Our characters would be flat, pristine, and oh so kind, and very, very boring! Like the wolf in Red Riding Hood, our bad guys would not simply be dressed up in costume with grandma’s clothes, they would actually be grandma and instead of huffing and puffing to blow our houses down they would be in the kitchen, cooking up a batch of chicken soup and spoon-feeding it to our heroine! Not that there’s anything wrong with chicken soup. But that only gets you so far in a story and discerning readers might want to know what happens next, as in maybe the soup is poisoned, or even before, as in where did the chicken’s rubber meet the road, and just how did it wind up in the pot in the first place? At some point, we have to put a little meat on the chicken’s bones, and then let the reader watch as the flesh gets torn off, piece by piece in an intoxicating finale! That is what will keep their eyes super-glued and their mouths hanging open, as they read on into the night and tell all their friends about it the next day.

However, bad for bad sake, is not good. Or, as Preston point out in his number two tip, “Make the horror mean something.” Don’t throw bad stuff in there, just for the sake of being bad. Tie it into your guys or gals back story. Give them a reason for robbing that bank or driving that Bronco down the freeway at 100 mph with 30 cops hot on their tails. Our readers are smart, and action for action sake will be spotted immediately as a device, simply used to move a story forward. And no one likes to be talked down to. Readers want meat, they want substance and grit and they will find it when your characters do too, amidst all their chaos and confusion! Let your characters grow with the dirt and your readers will thank your for it in the end.

And don’t forget to talk to your characters too. Yes, I said talk to them. As Preston mentions, this is a great way to get them to tell you just how bad they should be and exactly how they should go about it. I have a character in my story who did just that and winded up being nasty as the night is long. In short, I think my readers will love to hate him. I know I do. And that my friends, is some bad ass music!

What bad things are your characters doing, and how are they doing it? I’d love to hear. And just what are they telling you to guide their paths?? Stir up the pot and have a conversation, and let me know!

 

           

 

 

 

 

Third Person limited, vs the dreaded Head Hopping…

 

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A couple of posts got me mulling over today’s topic, writing in third person limited vs. random, willy nilly head hopping with no real reason or strategy….

So, here’s my question of the day:

Just how do you widen your  story perspective using third person, and convey other characters pov’s in a strategic and methodical way without randomly shifting heads and risk losing your readers in the process??

 In a post on the craft of perspective over at “Brevity.wordpress.com,” Judithe Hannan writes:

“Unfettered writing, for our ears alone, can open doors, but to get to the doors behind the doors we can’t be Narcissus staring at his own reflection. We need other faces looking back at us, we need craft, and we need to connect our story to a world beyond our small pond.

And I would have to agree. After all, our stories are our stories, and exciting and intriguing they may be, but if we want them to reach other ears, they need to be tuned into full-blown operas! Hannan goes on, describing her attempts in doing just this:

“My lens didn’t only have to be compassionate, it had to be wider. When I first wrote about my daughter’s cancer I wasn’t telling a story about people but about IV’s, scans, chemo drugs, and scars. I created a cloistered world…where no one learned or evolved. So I stepped back. I described the doctors, observed the different ways my daughter and I interacted with them and…found an opportunity to explore our dynamic with each other…When I zoomed out and saw myself against the backdrop of the larger world, I emerged transformed as a mother, wife, and friend.”

Hannan makes some good points here, and as my own novel has evolved, I too found myself stepping back from first, to third and back again before deciding on third person limited to best tell the story, but I am learning to do it in a controlled manner without the dreaded head hopping!

Don’t get me wrong. My first drafts at using third limited have been loaded with many instances of the ugly deed, which thankfully, were pointed out in workshop, and since been corrected. And once I got the hang of it, using third limited can be a breath of fresh air as it gave me, the author, the ability to move around inside the story and command it, taking the characters with me as I go, much like moving chess pieces around on the board. I am still in charge at all times, but my characters now have the chance to speak their minds and that, is what gives depth to a story! I dare say, makes it all that much more fun not only to write, but to read too! After all, if you’re going to entertain, go for it!

Especially if you’re writing crime fiction, like me. Why just describe a bad guy when you can really get into a bad guy’s head, thoughts, motives, and actions! Hell, why just tell or talk about the body being dumped out of the car and into the alley from another characters perspective, when you can show it as it’s happening from inside their head, getting all down and dirty with it??

Which style do you prefer as both a writer and or reader, and why???

As always, your thoughts are welcome!

 

Fridays Flash, and Orange Groovy’s…

Orange Groovy’s

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Tossing her keys to the dude honking his horn in the Range Rover, Summer threw both legs out of her still running Honda and took off full sprint toward the club’s sprawling entry.

“Park it wherever Mac, I gotta class to teach and I’m already almost ten minutes late.”

Mac, whose solid looking guns hung out of the drivers window, flipped her the bird but she knew he’d get over it eventually. She’d done it before to him and most of the others, and they always did somehow. Especially since everyone knew that the instructors had dibs in the lot, and really, what else could they do? Her new Nikes pounded down hard on the pavement taking the brunt of her speed and she could still hear the honking from his horn and his screams as she flew inside.

“What the hell Summer! Just caz you work here don’t mean you can just ditch your ride any old time and leave it to me to figure where to land it.”

Summer turned quick on her heels, giving Mac a quick thumbs up right before sliding inside, and past Ramone at the front desk. She’d buy Mac a power smoothie later to make up for it. His favorite, the “Orange Groovy” concoction the snack stand guy made usually helped pave these things over. Ramone was busy checking in members and scanning their cards, as usual. He was always fighting with someone over something, since most LA Fitness members were mostly muscle heads, and tended to like a good roe now and then. But being late for her class, she couldn’t have cared less. She was more concerned with Ross, the club manager, who she saw waving frantically from behind his desk as he multi-tasked two phones and a waiting client, sitting in the chair in front of him. She could see him mouthing his usual rave, even from half way across the room:

“Summer” he screamed out. “You’re late. There’s a whole room full of people waiting on you back there and I already got Jason calling on a sub. One more time Summer, just once more, and that’s it. You’ll be teaching classes out on the street.”

She smiled and did the only thing she knew how to do, and the only thing that might appease him. She gave him the double thumbs up. But she didn’t have time to stick around to find out if it worked. There were probably over 100 people waiting on her in the aerobics room and she knew they wanted to move fast, and something fierce! So she hightailed it down the long hall and bounded up onto the platform stage, jammed in her music tape and switched on her microphone. Tone Loc’s Funky Cold Medina’s cool sounds filled up the room while the crowd grooved right and grooved left, and before she knew it, the hour was over. Sweat filled her eyes and down the back of her neck. She grabbed her towel, chatted with a few of the newbies who always liked to introduce themselves, and headed on out toward the front. The thought of that smoothie sounded good now, so she headed on over to the snack bar to find Mac, only to see a line of Paramedics carrying stretchers down the hall.

“Jason, what the hell is happening out here? Why are these Fireman here?”

Jason looked up from his desk, covered in LA Fitness water bottles and fliers. A scantily clad girl in a leotard sat in the chair opposite, waiting for him to take her money.

“Jezus Summer, they’re Paramedics, not fireman. And I don’t know. One minute he was serving smoothies, as usual. The next, he was face down on the floor. Just happened like ten minutes before your class finished. Ross called the paramedics in.”

“No way” Summer said. “ Who? The juice guy? You gotta be kidding me? I was just going over to get an Orange Groovy. Wow. But how, I mean, why?”

Jason handed the girl in front of him some cash and a water bottle. She leaned over the table and signed the contract.

“I don’t know man. Like I said, one minute, the guy’s pouring drinks. The next, boom!”

Summer backed up from Jason’s desk and slowly headed toward the commotion. The paramedics were busy loading the snack stand’s man into the stretcher and trying to clear out some space between them and the door. People were gawking all around. She reached up and let out her pony tail, untied her Nikes and slid down the wall to the carpet to make room. She sat there watching as a stretcher with a still body paraded past, and out into the night. Snack stand man was gone, and he wasn’t coming back. She leaned her head back up against the wall, and wondered, if they would they ever get their Orange Groovy’s again.

 

Mondays muse on those pesky writing distractions…

HI all and happy Monday once again!

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So this week a post caught my eye from Michelle, over at The Green Study.com,

(http://thegreenstudy.com/2016/03/06/experiential-avoidance-the-green-study-confessional/comment-page-1/#comment-24057).

Her post is all about those pesky technical distractions we find that get in the way of living our happier and more productive lives, and doing the things that matter the most. And since last week my cell phone died and so I had to go through the time-consuming and loathsome procedure of not only visiting my local AT&T store but also coughing up the big bucks for a new one, this post hit me like a rock to the head!

As Michelle says: “This week, I’ve been practicing stripping away distractions. It’s been made more difficult by a head cold. Silence sounds more like a waterfall rushing through my head. I’ve been making myself do things, one at a time, with no background activity. It’s very hard to do and I find that upsetting.When did I change? When did I become this leg-jittering, humming, antsy person in need of a fix? That I can’t even sit in my own company without checking this device or that – it’s a wake up call. In psychological terms, much of what I do these days would be described as experiential avoidance. I quit my job a few years ago to commit to writing full-time. Thus far, most of what I’ve done is unfinished, unremarkable and uninspiring…canstockphoto3436262

So that takes us back to my phone issue…

Once at the AT&T store, I had a decision to make. And yes, I had insurance! Not that it seems to matter any since it what it comes down to is a pay now, or pay later proposition. That said, not wanting to pay later, I reached deep and did it now. But part of the Faustian deal included having to wait 3-5 days for the new one to arrive. So I did. And I have to say, by day three when I came home to find it on my doorstep I was wishing they had taken the five!

Totally unplugged, footloose and fancy free for a whole 72 hours was nothing short of glorious! I felt more calm, more rested, and more in control of my time than I had in at least a year! Not having the constant buzzing to attend to and the endless stream of both Facebook and Twitter interruptions to deal with (dare I call them annoyances??) meant I was able to do more of what mattered and what was important, like spend time working on my novel, my thesis, and even reading. What a concept that was!

 

So, my big question to you all today is like Michelle’s…

What’s your least helpful distraction? And just what are you avoiding with it???

As always, jump on in. The water’s warm!

Mondays Muse asks: Are you whining your way into gold….

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A recent post by Kathryn Craft  entitled “How Much will You Give Away”  on http://WritersintheStorm.com got me thinking…

As a definite “new kid on the block” at this whole blogging/writing thing, and as a basically broke, blundering, grad school novice slugging it out in the writing trenches with barely a few credits to my name,  and  dog paddling just to keep my head above water, I’ve got my fair share of whining to be heard. But let’s face it: no one wants to hear that stuff all or even most of the time! I mean everyone, even Hemingway and Stephen King had to start somewhere!

But balancing one’s time between school projects, papers, thesis writing and demanding professors with also trying to put out credible regular blog posts and also furiously sending out submissions in hopes of getting published can be more than just a  bit overwhelming. So what’s a poor grad student to do, when on top of all that, requests for things like guest blog posts and even submitting to anthologies for free beckon enticingly at the back door?

Sure we want to get published. In fact, that’s all we really care about. Our days and nights are spent in single-minded pursuit of it, and our dreams are pretty much haunted by it. But like Kathryn Craft asks:

“When such requests catch us off-guard, we are liable to whine, “Why do people keep asking me for more free stuff?”

In my case, I haven’t been asked so much for free stuff, as for my time. Guest posting on someone else’s blog is groovy. And sure, it might get me some more readers. But really, does it serve my higher purpose? Like Ms. Craft tells us in her stellar post, one of the greatest things a new writer ( or any writer for that matter) can do is to “Analyze your career goals and set reasonable boundaries.” Without that much at least down on paper, a simple response to the question ” Will you write a series on our blog for free?” may turn into stressful quandary taking up  a whole lot more time and energy than anticipated. Especially when in fact, as Ms. Craft again so wisely tells us:

 “It takes me at least a half-day to write a cogent, polished blog post. Or, I could draft 2K words on my work-in-progress. You must convince me the exposure is worth it”

Or, as I put it, uh yeah, No!

last time I looked I had at least five professors barking down my door with serious deadlines and a thesis looming larger than Big Foot, and oh yeah, my own novel in the works too, which by the way, should be taking precedence over just about everything. Recently, a respected blogger and author, and kick ass writer coach who shall go nameless here advised me that same sentiment, phrased differently, of course. But the gist of it was simple:

“Focus on the novel and getting it out there. Then everything else will just fall into place.”

That’s not to say that doing said guest posts or spending time organizing our MFA readings at our local book store aren’t great things to do and have on the resume. They are, and will continue to be important elements to my overall writing career. And are great ways to gain exposure and or simply increase ones community circle outreach. And certainly, writing and being involved with other writers on any level is better than not writing or communing at all.

But these days the pecking order has made itself clear:

It’s thesis, novel, my own blog posts here, and then, all that other stuff!

What’s been on your whine list lately?

Don’t be shy, just drop me a line and whine on!

I’m here to listen!

Much thanks to Kathryn Craft and http://www.writersinthestorm.com

Ciao for now, and darkly yours,

Lisa

Fridays Fun Flash Fiction: The Abyss…

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     Father Trevor’s rolled the rosary beads round in his hand for the twentieth time in the last twelve minutes. He knew how exactly how long it had been, since the hands on the clock overhead were extra noisy as they ticked the down the seconds going round. The digits were painted on bold too, dark green, on a pale cream-colored backdrop, making them hard to miss. Under it sat the calendar with today’s date circled in red, December 31, 1949.

The date was significant for Trevor, since it was one year ago today that he’d been transferred to this stark and quiet parish from his native and decadent Puerto Rico. A move he’d hadn’t wanted, but had resigned himself to. Monsignor had told him it was either that or face expulsion from the order, so he’d sighed and reluctantly agreed. Packed up his things that very night, and was on a plane the next morning. He’d settled down into his new surroundings not ten hours later that evening.

Ohio was certainly not Puerto Rico. There was no escaping the monotony of the strict borders and rules of the priesthood here. No avenues for escape like in San Juan, where the bars he’d found tucked away in the seedier downtown districts had led him to Eduardo. They’d tucked out whenever he could get away, slipping into their nightly rituals just long enough to meet up and shack up. They’d rendezvous in whatever hotel Eduardo had managed to find, usually one of those by the hour places, just long enough to satisfy their urges. Then, once satiated, he’d sneak back to his priestly service, no one being the wiser. But they’d found out, and exiled him, a million miles away from Eduardo and the temptations of his favorite and secretly coveted city.

But he’d found a new hobby, even here, of all places, in Ohio. And he guessed that they knew, once again. He was going to be asked to come clean. Could feel it. His eyes watched the clock as he rolled the beads round and round in his fingers, wondering just what to say.

       Should he tell them everything? Or just barely enough. Or maybe, nothing at all.

Maybe they didn’t really know, maybe they only suspected.

The parish’s newest altar boy was so sweet, so young. So compliant. And Trevor’s passions had got the better of him the very first time he glanced the boy through the bathroom mirrors, while stripping down for their morning showers. They’d exchanged glances but once, and it was done. Ever since then, their midnight meetings in the gardens outside the parish walls had become more frequent, and this last time they’d both felt someone or something watching, and looked up just in time to see a window closing high overhead, in a hurry.

“The Monsignor will see you now Father.”

The tall, lean messenger’s request broke Trevor from his thoughts.

“Yes of course.”

Trevor rose from the pew, straightened his robes with the palm of his hand and tucked the beads down deep into his trouser pocket beneath.

          I’ll tell them nothing, he thought. If they know, they know. And I’ll suffer the consequences. And if they don’t, then it’s on me. My sins are all on my conscience.

          He walked behind the messenger and down the long aisle of the small chapel, where the sun set off the stained glass windows all around, illuminating clearly the things in front of him. Trevor’s eyes took in the round, firm swishing back and forth under the robes of the messenger walking in front of him and something stirred in his pants.

        Lord help me, he thought. My sins are not my own. But, they are, will be, my undoing.

        He swallowed hard and pushed on, into the abyss, unfolding

Mondays Muse, and Multiple POVs…

Hi there kids and kidettes, 

 

It’s Monday Musing time again, and todays topic just happens to be inspired by a recent guest post from Aimie K. Runyan on multiple POV’s, from one of my all time favorite writer sites, Writers In the Storm, at:  (http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/01/10-tips-to-writing-from-multiple-povs/).  

Ms. Runyan’s post caught my eye because my novel in progress indeed falls into this complicated, yet fulfilling category, with multiple characters telling the story and moving the plot forward with their own unique quips and quirks, and hopefully, keeping the reader engaged invested in turning the pages far past their alloted bed times.

Case in point: just check out this Scooby pic:

Don’t know about you, but the one thing I recall is that each and every one of them wanted to uncover and take credit for figuring out the “who” in the “who done it” part of the game. Sure, they started every show as a collective we. Loaded up in the Scooby van driving to wherever their mystery of the day might take them. But once there, they always split up, no? Giving us scenes, from you guessed it, multiple Pov’s.

Case in point: 

First, we’d usually get serious Fred, all orange Ascot and arms crossed Rambo style in front of his chest, scowling as he deduced the nature of the crime (single pov). And most of the times he’d be accompanied by Daphne, the ginger haired Barbie, and off hot on the trail of the bad guys. (another separate pov chapter). That is, when Daphne wasn’t busy playing damsel in distress, getting kidnapped, tied up or gagged, (a whole separate pov) in which case usually Scooby and Shaggy (yet another pov scene) would fly in to the rescue from some other scene where snacks of all conceivable shapes and sizes preoccupied the moment. Or sometimes it was Fred, who’d swoosh in to save the day hot off a solo scene from tracking down villains or ghosts (main detective pov). And of course, we can’t forget about Thelma, intelligent, reporter girl Thelma, interviewing potential suspects and witnesses, usually solo (yet again, another reporter, cop pov.)

Thanks for indulging my digression into retro cartoon mania. But, there’s a point to it all (hint: multiple points – haha).

And as Ms. Runyan points out in her post, beauty can be achieved in the magic of cohesion, as long as it’s pulled off well. Right now I’m writing my first go at a multiple pov novel, and it makes my Scooby example but a paltry simplified version of the real thing and of Ms. Runyan’s musings. And since I couldn’t begin to state it better myself, here are the main highlights from her “10 Tips to writing multiple POV’s”: 

 (her original full post can be found at: http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/01/10-tips-to-writing-from-multiple-povs/):

“These are some of the methods I used to weave three separate narratives into one cohesive story:

  • Start with archetypes. “The person obsessed with solving problems is going to address issues differently than the person combing the world for inspiration for their next poem. You want to make sure your POV characters have a different enough world view to make it worth the hassle of writing from more than one POV.
  • Diverge from those archetypes. There is no person so simplistic that you can simply write them off as a two word personality type. Your character has likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and a past that shapes how they deal with reality. Making a rich character will make it easier for your reader to parse who is speaking.
  • Make sure each chapter or section advances the plot. Telling the same scene over again simply to get another character’s take is tedious…forward motion is key. Choosing one character to focus on and begin the story…then giving the other characters’ ‘pivotal moments’ in bite-sized chunks of back story… for a much more compelling read.
  • Make sure each main POV character gets enough “screen time” to make us care… It shouldn’t feel lopsided. We also shouldn’t go so long away from any one main POV character that we’ve lost track of where they are… I made several passes through my manuscript to ensure each main character was at least mentioned if they were ‘offscreen’ for a whole chapter, and tallied up their word counts to make sure there wasn’t a huge disparity…
  • In addition to strong characters, your voice for each must be on point. Pet expressions, gestures, vocabulary limitations, and more are key in keeping your POV characters distinct. … This is important, even when not dealing with multiple POV, but absolutely essential when you are. ..
  • In most cases, it’s great to show one main POV character from the eyes of another… Let the other characters show us another angle on the truth. I loved showing my insecure character through the eyes of her friends. She was much more capable than she ever recognized.
  • If you are travelling between different time periods in a dual narrative, make sure the language, setting, props, and more all fit the eras so as to keep the narratives separate. It’s easy to slip…
  • Make sure that if you have a large number of main POV characters that you achieve a satisfying story arc for all of them in addition to an overreaching story arc. Each main character deserves a fully fleshed-out storyline, and for this reason, multiple POV books tend to be longer…
  • Make sure you make transitions from POV character to POV character smoothly. Titling a chapter heading with the POV character’s name is very common. You can also shift from scene to scene in a chapter if you are very distinct with your voice, but this does not mean “head-hopping” willy-nilly within a scene. Stick with one character for a logical chunk of the story.
  • The golden rule: Do not use multiple POVs for the sake of using multiple POVs. If you can tell your story without the shifts, do so.

So, that’s it for today folks. But I leave you with a question:

What are you working on? Does it have multiple POV’s? And how’s it working out for you?

Luv to hear your thoughts!

Ciao for now, and darkly yours,

Lisa

 

(much thanks to Aimie K. Runyan and Writers in the Storm; and the post,  10 Tips to Writing from Multiple POVs | Writers In The Storm.)

It’s Fun Flash Fiction Friday again…

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Hey all, 

So it’s fun flash fiction Friday time again. And what better time than to post a story about a characters secret? Ever have characters in your stories that have something to hide and aren’t doing a very good job of it?

Well I do. And my story, “The secret” is all about it. Man can’t stand his wife, but is too much of a wimp to do anything about it. Well, almost!

What’s the biggest secret your character has ever kept?

And did he, or she, keep it well, or did they run into problems and why? Tell me all about it in the comments, and let’s get that communication going!

Enjoy,

Ciao for Now, and darkly yours,

Lisa Ciarfella

 

The Secret

            Friday’s tongue licked the man’s face fast and hard, same as always every time he slept over. With Friday around, who needed an alarm clock. Through the window he could see the sun just coming up over the watch tower out on the sand. So nice to live by the water, he thought. Too bad I can’t do it full time. He pushed Friday’s big nose over and out of the way and leaned in to kiss his partner in crime.

“ Good morning, sleepy head. I’m off. Gonne take a quick shower and get going. Busy day today, what with the new boss and all. She’s got an 8 am meeting scheduled. Think she wants to pick out brains, see what’s what.”

The sleeping figure rolled over and yawned, smiled, patted the man on the rear in a playful manner, and turned back toward the window. Out again, the man thought. Sure wish I could sleep in. The mans feet hit the wood floor. Shower on. Water hitting hard on his shoulders. Comb, hair gelled, teeth brushed. Threw on the same clothes he had come over in last night. Not having a lot of storage space in the small apartment was hard. His coworkers were just going to have to deal with seeing him in the same suit he wore last Friday, before the long weekend. Not enough time to go home to get new ones. Being late just wouldn’t be okay this morning. Especially not with her, being the new boss and all.

He fought through the traffic in record time Screeched into the parking lot. He adjusted his tie once more, and pushed through the large double glass doors to the morning meeting with seconds to spare. Spying him immediately she motioned him over, pointing toward the chair next to her. He obliged as she shook her head and re-adjusted the tie to the left. Leaning in close to his left ear, her voice rose just above a whisper:

“Tsk tsk. Almost late again. You never can get this right, can you. How was the business trip? You look terrible, like you slept in your clothes on the plane. Are the contracts signed now?”

Smiling to the last entrant into the room, she smoothed her skirt with her left hand and flicked the lights on with the right, calling the meeting to order. But not before one last quip.

“Don’t forget. Tina has her first soccer match tonight. I have to stay late, so I volunteered you. But she’ll be so happy to have dad on the sidelines.”

She winked, and squeezed his arm tight. His lips curled up on the sides, pretending mutual affection.

“ Let’s celebrate my promotion tonight when I get home. Champagne’s on ice in the fridge”

Done with him now, she turned toward the waiting room. Her husband watched, twirling the ring on his finger. He sipped the cup in front of him, but had to pull back because of the heat. He hadn’t been quite ready for that.

“ So team. Good morning. And welcome. Let’s get started with last week’s rundown, shall we.”

Monday’s Muse, and Workshop Woes…

 

 

Hi all.

For today’s Mondays Muse, we’re going to back to school.

 

Or rather, as in my case, still there, slugging it out. I like to think of myself as an MFA pawn, deep in the trenches, surviving by gut and instinct, and just trying to dodge all the bullets being thrown my way. 

This month I was blessed enough to have been invited to guest blog on Wendy Van Kamp’s site, nowastedink.com  . You can find my whole piece, Workshop Woes by Lisa Ciarfella there. It gets into the nitty gritty of it all, and hopefully inspires some can do attitude with a much needed dose of positive vibes for those of you who going through it too. And even for those of you who aren’t…us writers are all the same. We all need to feel wrapped in comforting prose from time to time, by people who get it and embrace what we’re trying to create, instead of those at odds with our dreams.

As you will see, most of my last year and a half has been spent trying to figure out where those bullets were coming from, and which direction to duck next. But survive I have and as I sit cranking out what’s left of my thesis under the serious deadline gun, just thought I’d take a quick break and share some of those trials and tribulations with you all.

I fgure, a lot of you out there, can relate!  I mean, MFA or not, who among the writer camp can’t say they havent’ encountered at least a few of these situations along the way…it’s all part of the writers journey. Good, bad, or ugly, writing is like a wash/dry cycle. You wont come out the same way you went in. And over time, that’s probably a good thing!

Back to the thesis now, banging it out, one key at a time.

See you on the boards soon,

Ciao for now, and darkly yours,

Lisa

 

Fun Flash Friday, and the dentist…

 

Frightening Book Cover

So. It’s that time again kids and kiddettes!

Freaking fun, fantastically fabulous Friday. That day where we get to look forward to the few hours of precious time on the weekends to release, relax, and re-energize! Or, as case may have it, go to the f-ing dentist!

Yes fellow fraidy-cats, today was that time again. And seeing as I’d already been putting it off for as long as humanly possible, having canceled and rescheduled at least 3 times in the last 3 months coming up with brilliant but not so real imaginary excuses every single time, I’d figured it was time to bite the bullett, or rather the probing tool, and buck up for my own Little Shop of Horrors first hand experience!

For those of you who’ve seen the film, and for those of you who haven’t: Here’s a cautionary “viewer beware” rating. A movie caught in the middle, between a PG13, “shield your kids eyes from the nasty” film, and an adult only R, that has you shielding your own eyes from the horrors. Only with this film, your never quite sure whether you should be looking, or not! It’s one of those “peek behind the fingers covering my eyes” but in small doses only. And then retreat back again quick when Seymour (Rick Moranis) starts feeding the insatiable plant, with body parts axed up from the what’s left over of the dentist (Steve Martin.) MMM. Getting hungry just thinking bout’ it!

Things really get twisted  when Martin comes riding down the street in his black leather motorcycle get up and singing about how his mom always told him he’d be a success if he’d only become a tooth man. Especially, since he loved to torture and terrorize  small animals and other less bully-inclinced types of kids. All I can say is, Go Mom!

Especially love the scene where Seymour’s in Martin’s office under pretense of needing work done, and instead, whips out a gun wanting to kill off Martin for smacking around the film’s femme fatale, and his girlfriend to be, Audry. But, as fate would have it, Martin’s laughing gas gets the last laugh as it gasses him to death in the corner!

Seymour looks on horrified, or, is he really?? Not only did he not have to use the gun, but evil mouth man has been dealt a lesson, a Karma-strikes back only kind of lesson, where the pain he’s inflicted on who knows how many is coming back to haunt him bad! His final and frightening grand finale!

Take that,  Mr. Mouth Man! It’s come full circle!

 

And now, as I sit in my own personal tooth-trench hell, reclining and staring up at the photos of dental menace and mayhem plastered on the ceiling above me, I can’t help but wonder –  Just where the hell is the gas?

Real world creative non-fiction, or freakin fun, Friday fantasy? You decide.

Ovef and out, from a half crazed, overly anxious patient waiting room, where darkly insane thoughts are running fast, and furious!

 

Oh. And just because:

The cover work you see here is the brilliant anthology, where my very first published short story now lives! Another creepy, crawly, and somewhat demented short story called “Midnight in Alaska” where I ramble on about wolves howling and prowling in the distance, and spooky Santa Clause North Pole happenings all in the dead of the Alaskan night!

If any of you ever check it out, do drop me a line, and let me know. Pretty proud of it, as  I can now call myself officially published! Happy Friday, fiction fans. See you around the campsite soon!

Ciao for now, and darkly yours, 

Lisa 

Mondays Muse…

Stphen King-on writing2

Stphen King-on writing2

SO, here we go with this week’s Mondays Muse, as promised. And take a guess what we’re talking about? Yep, you guessed it, writing fiction! And who better to guide us through the murky, distant, tantalizing, and creepy waters than the master himself, Mr. Stephen King!

All’s I can say is, if you’re a writer and you haven’t read this book, run, don’t walk, to your nearest library and check it out. Or, if you’re unlike moi, that is to say not a broke and struggling grad student, and you actually have two cents to rub together, maybe even consider buying it. Not only does it look great on your shelf, but it contains so many nuggets of writerly wisdom, you’re eyes and ears will consume it faster than you would that chocolate pie or the newest rendition of Marry the night from Lady Gaga. Yes folks, it’s one you wont put down till the last page is done and the corners are dog-eared stiff! And or until the lights go out because the wind is howling so hard outside you’re sure he must be out there somewhere in the dark channeling his particular brand of writer spooked through the rain and into the walls of your dwelling space. 

Either way, my heartfelt advice is to check it out, and soon! It’s nuggets like these, that will catch your eye. I know they did mine, for sure!

” The first story I did actually publish was in a horror fanzine…I was a teenaged Grave-robber…After  a long time spent studying the markets, I sent Happy stamps off to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. It came back three weeks later with a form rejection slip…By the time I was fourteen…the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replace the nail with a spike and went on writing.” (p. 38-41)

Okay peeps…don’t know about you, but that’s all good for me. In fact, if you follow me here and or on FB at all, you know that I recently just got my very first published short story ever up in a horror anthology called Fightening. The story’s called “Midnight in Alaska,” a creepy crawly Stephen King-like tale, and I like to think he’d be proud to know there are those of us who are out here, following in his footsteps. Or, at the very least, dying to try! (wink-nudge-haha.)

Well. That’s all for now folks. Gotta go burn that midnight oil and keep the spooks at bay while I crack open another less, than desirable grad school text-book which is due tomorrow, but took a serious back seat to Mr. King and friends.

See you all on the boards soon, at Friday’s Fun Flash Fiction. Make sure to stay tuned for that, caz. you never know what’s gonna fall out of this brain!

Ciao for now, 

Lisa

Mondays Muse

What’s your Monday Muse?

Ours is whatever we’re reading that inspires our fancy or catches our interest in a big way. Maybe even a book review, author interview, or just some simple inspiration from the read. Like this below, from creep master himself, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.

 

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THE RAVEN:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door—
Darkness there and nothing more….

What’s your Monday Muse??? Comments, welcome!

Project Gutenberg EBook of The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe

North Pole Nightmares…

snow covered street to nowhere

Sweat poured down my eyes, onto my chest and into my t-shirt getting me all wet and pumped. Adrenaline kicked in as I rounded the corner lot and my stopwatch clicked off the 3/4-mile mark. Hitting my stride now, feet pumping, fast as they could carry me, I was feeling good now, breathe evened, focus narrowed. Two miles was the goal today, and I knew I could do it. I reached down into my pack without breaking my stride, grabbing up my water bottle and slugged it down, not noticing the curb up ahead, when boom! Right foot over left, tumbling down, ankle buckles, and the right knee goes pop while slamming into concrete, hot and dirty. My hands go in front of my face, trying to block the inevitable, but white heat starts spreading up my leg, and into my thigh. I grab my right foot and groan, but no one’s around to hear. It’s midnight here on the other side of the globe, and the sun’s blazing this time of night in Alaska, but I’m all alone on the pavement, while my right knee’s turning purple and my foot’s looking twisted twenty ways from Sunday……I look around for someone, anyone. But all I hear are my own cries. And the lone wolf, somewhere out there in the near distance…

Fun Flash Fiction Fridays…

BPM’s – Hey Mr. DJ…

(by yours truly)  

DJ Image

Image courtesy of DJ Nederland (@NLDJTwitter

Bill sat high up in his DJ tower over looking the frenzied dance crowd down below. He had just started spinning Madonna’s Vogue and the players on the floor were hitting some serious poses. One guy had his right arm up in a salute and the chick he’d been slapping around had her face down in his crotch, tongue going up and down fast, in perfect time to the beats, pretending to do the nasty.

Her licks looked like they were coming in right on target, about 125 per minute. The tongue never seemed to slow down.

Another couple on the floor was bee bopping in 2/4 time and was swinging his partner round in circles like a rag doll. But they were hitting their marks perfectly every time. Not bad considering he had to get her all the way around to land it. But that Janet Jackson crew over in the far corner carving out a semi perfect rendition of Rhythm Nation, now they were impressive! Banging it out on the down beat, 130 beats per minute exact.

Boy, were they ever on point! Looked like their troupe had been practicing since they were born. Not a foot out of line, not a step right when it should have been left. A precision drill team, hitting their marks, spot on every time. Bill would have to stay on his game to keep this this crowd grooving happy.

He leaned down to pick out the next set of discs. Let’s see. Kool and the Gang’s newest on the Celebrate CD was calling to him. It was 125 to 135 BPM’s all the way, right on track with what the crews were slamming out down below. But to be sure, he needed to count it.

He grabbed the massive headphones and stuck them on his ears. Madonna shouted in his left ear, while K and gang rang in his right. He counted, drumming the reps out with his fingers.

              Eight reps per set, eight sets per move, two moves per step down below. 130 beats per minute That’s what he was going for. A disco ball flashed in his face. He squinted and held out the left ear to hone in;

              95, 100, 110, 120, Nailed it! With a flick of his wrist, he spun the disk round hard and let her rip. 

              Let’s Get this party started, ya’ll.

 

 

This week’s Monday Muse, and last night’s escapade…

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Google Images

So, last night’s real life crime drama played out before my eyes as I rode along LBPD’s finest set of real life police characters in Signal Hill. Many thanks to Officer Taylor who chauffered me along all night and patiently and kindly explained how things work out there in his nightly world of cops and robbers. And kudos to the bad guys we had first hand dealings with who made my night and caused me to take lots and lots of handscribbled notes in the dark as we drove around and arrested, searched, and seized the stuff HBO movies are made of. Here’s a recap of my notes and some of our best scary, or rather shady, moments:

“Just arrested a dude shoplifting at home depot, and brought him in for booking..the kicker was, his wife sat chain smoking outside waiting on us, and yelling the whole time for the car keys so she could bail…

Earlier we busted down the door in room 12 at a motel 6 where a bunch of tweekers were out on bail and had warrants for possession of firearms. 
When we went inside, there were glass pipes and the smell of smoke everywhere…they sat out on the curb, cuffed and waiting….
The tall tattooed one in the middle had a brick of Mary Jane bigger than a basketballl…
Looks like he’s going back into the system…Too bad he just got out 3 weeks ago…

Definitely gonna be a long night… more fun and games ahead, as this shift lasts another 12 hours, and we’ve barely just started…

This just in…Gotta go now and chase down a guy reported wandering around with a gun at Mcdonalds…”

Gotta say, I came home pumped at midnight, and wanted to do it all over again! In fact, I’ve already got another one in the works with LBPD so stay tuned for more on this score!

 

Hope I gave you all something to muse about on this lovely Monday Morning!  

What’s your Monday muse??  Jump on in here, the water’s warm!

 

 

Interrogation—Jack Getze

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S.W. Lauden throws down another great interview on http://badcitizencorporation.com, with New Jersey based Jack Getze, former newsman and Anthony-nominated Spinetingler Fiction magazine Editor, and author of the latest Austin Carr mysteries, BIG SHOES, published by Down & Out Books.

Looks like a terrific funny and edge of  your seat kind of read. I’m particularly intrigued by as Getze describes it, “one particular Power Point presentation to a Jersey state racing commission that ended in automatic weapons fire,” and also in his enticing character, “Mama Bones.” And I love Getze’s comments in response to Lauden’s great question regarding how much of his journalism experience found its way into his fiction:

 I hated school but wanted to be a writer, so I landed a copy boy job with the intent of learning to write. I was nineteen, seriously into my Hemingway, and I’d read that’s how he started. Thus the biggest thing I believe I’ve taken from journalism is a love of brevity and clarity. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the Elmore Leonard school of craft—if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it—and I think all those words I created on The Times’ Underwood helped make me a clean and lean write. ( Getze).

 

Go here, for more of this great interview: Source: Interrogation—Jack Getze

Thirty Dog Thursday, anyone???

30 dogs mugging for the camera

Thanks to spectacular photo for this.

OK, who hid the bones?

And just where might you fit in??

Sweet, sour, sexy, or salty? These guys got it all covered!

Not sure which is me, but I’m considering the little one in the front, all the way  to the right – Black and white, with small ears and a big smile. Or maybe, the black poodle-doodle in the third row right – with the curly hair and white chest markings!

 

What’s got you barking today??

Any way you slice it…Gotta luv a good dog face! 

 

The Perfect Storm…

What’s your perfect storm like for writing?
Is it a a white-out, snow driven, stephen king-ish type day where the wind’s whistling at 20 below and the only respite is found bundled up inside the 4 walls of the house hiding underneath the drifts?
Or is it the opposite; a sunny, shore drenched cove, where the kids are bopping and the waves are rolling and margaritas flowing…

Personally, I prefer days like below  – cold, crisp, and clear…with my pup curled up by my feet, and the world shut out tight, with only the keyboard to contend with on my lap.

Would luv to hear your thoughts on the matter…
the perfect storm...

Dreamin big on the page!

It’s 2016, and a real hum-dinger!

Well, well, well. If 2016 didn’t ring in with a bang! A real humdinger, if ever there was.

Especially since as of today, I can officially rank myself among the chosen lucky. You know, that group of published authors whose stories can be both found and bought on Amazon. Yes folks, I rang in this new year with a glass of the bubbly and a little private dance I like to call “the bear” which, I give credit to my big brother for, and which tends to follow my high points where ever and what ever they be. Granted, the groove is a little goofy. But hey. I figure, dancing in my pj’s in my basement with no one but my pup giving me the once over doesn’t exactly make for a Kodak moment. So you wont be seeing the rendition here any time soon. But rest assured, yours truly is feeling pretty pumped!

My short story, “Midnight in Alaska” is now up on Amazon, and part of a 20 tale horror anthology put out by the terrific team at Sez Publishing at  http://www.amazon.com/Frightening-collective-work-Sez-Publishing/dp/1519590954/ref=sr_1_1?

The story was inspired by an Anchorage to Dinali cruise I took through the great white state a while back. And if you’ve never been, Alaska truly is like the wild west. Its own frontier, just bursting at the seams for story writers, especially creepy crawly Stephen King kind of stories. (Not that I’m comparing myself to the master. I’m not. Never would.) But his writing is seriously inspirational in that respect, and the Alaskan backdrop basically cries out for that kind of a creep. Santa Claus land, as it turns out, doesn’t only inspire sugarplum dreams of candy canes and mistletoe, but seriously flawed fairy tales gone way the heck and yonder off the beaten track and far down some deserted path instead. Really. Go for yourself and you’ll see what I mean!

I was also blessed to enough to have been asked to guest blog this month on Wendy Van Kamp’s site, http://nowastedink.com/category/guest-posts/. It would be great to see all of you there too, so drop on by and leave your thoughts. All in all, a pretty good January, and it’s only the first week!

If you’ve been following my blog here at all, you know that my first writing love in Noir, and crime fiction. And I’ve been busy writing that stuff too. A novel is in the definite works, and I’m in the trenches slogging it out, making good headway. And I have another short story coming out sometime this year in a pretty well-known publication in the crime writing community. But I hesitate to name it quite yet, as I don’t like to jinx things. But that’s all the more reason for you to keep checking back in on me to keep me honest at posting the dirt first hand as it happens.

My blogging goals this year are simple:

Monday’s Muse posting: Here I’ll post my weekly reads and reviews on classic noir, classic crime fiction, and classic detective novels from the masters of the past who have a thing or three to teach on us on honing our craft. Watch for this week’s post, on Dashiell Hammett’s, “The Thin Man.”

Author to Author: Watch for  weekly posts where I highlight my favorite authors and other bloggers who have put out the business, making my ears stand up in the process with great author to author interviews, and their tips and tricks on how to write better fiction.

Also,  watch for Fun Flash Fiction posts, where I put up a new story a week, as the muse inspires, and or as you submit.

Hope to see you around the campsite and I’ll be looking for your comments, so don’t be shy. And, if you have a piece you want me to put up, feel free to send it. I can’t pay. But if it’s mysterious, intriguing, or just plain weird, send it on over and I’ll consider it. The more the merrier, I always say.

 

Here’s to a rockin’ 2016 all!

Ciao for now,

Lisa

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Mondays Muse

Hi all, and happy 2016!

So, to kick off today’s Mondays Muse, I just thought I’d tell you all about Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man,” which I just finished reading. And what a great read it was! If you’ve never read it, or haven’t read it recently, it is a super fun must do to add to your 2016 GoodReads list.

Mr. Hammett penned a couple of terrific characters here; a polite, upscale, charming, and engaging couple who live in a fancy New York hotel with a miniature dog and who dine on duck legs and chicken livers in between martini happy hours and solving mysteries. <br>Nick Charles as the retired but easily swayed private detective gets caught back up in a murder mystery when long time friends daughter Dorothy shows up on his doorstep wondering what happened to her father. Of course, he can’t turn down her request for his help, and the story is off and running.

Hammett’s characters are quirky and fun, like Nora, Nick’s boozy but glamorous wife, as is Asta her miniature dog with spirit who pounces her paws ferociously on all who dare enter. And Mimi is a super charged femme fatale, lying and scheming her way to the money, and throwing herself to whoever she can to get what she wants. <br>Hammett hides the thin man incredibly well, right up to the end, keeping us guessing as to his whereabouts. A masterful arrangement of buring the lead, if ever there was! Kept me reading on into the night. Too bad Hammet only wrote the one book with these guys. I would have loved to see more of them!

Check out my Goodreads list for more great reviews, which will be posted here as well as I go through them. My 2016 goal? To get through all the classic noir and crime fiction works I can from the masters past, who definitely have a thing or three to teach us about the craft. Hope you all enjoy reading them as much as I do!
<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/44321941-lisa-ciarfella”>View all my reviews</a>

 

Workshop Woes by Lisa Ciarfella

So this week I guest blogged on Wendy Van Kamp’s site, “No Wasted Ink,” on a topic ripe for debate, the MFA workshops. My piece reveals the inner workings of workshops, the pros and the cons, and what, if anything can be gained from such experiences.
Would luve to hear your thoughts on the matter!

No Wasted Ink

Boulder_Book_Store_YA_workshop

Eighteen months ago when I first started this roller coaster of an MFA ride, me and my small group of scrivener cohorts all had essentially, the same innocent, naïve dreams dancing through our madly scribbled prose. We were all going to land the same fortune cookie tale. You know the one. When cracked open, it tells tales of highly praised, sought after scribes writing prolific prose in the genre of choice, with agents camped out on lawns and multi-gazillion dollar world-wide book sales jamming up our inboxes. And of course, ditching the day job as soon as possible in exchange for hunkering down in some great old Italian Villa to write full time to our ever growing, overwhelming international demand. Yeah, as far as tall tales go, it’s a nice one.

But then the sun crashes in hard through that dream, abruptly waking you to the realization that last night’s…

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20140611_224846_Android 14

Friday Fun – Your Writer’s Wisdom Council

So a post on “Live to Write, Write to Live” by Deborah Lee Luskin caught my eye this morning about forming your own “Writing Wisdom Council.” In it she asks an interesting question. If you could form your own “Writing Wisdom Council” with any combination of favorite authors (dead or alive), favorite characters, and or both, what would yours look like, and why? And I thought, why not start the debate here. Since we all have our own faves, it ought to be an interesting list. So, I’ll kick it off for us.

My writing council would be of course populated by the great Raymond Chandler; his iconic predecessor Dashiell Hammett; fifties master of the noir, Jim Thompson, and his current doppelgänger, Hollywood’s one and only, Paul D. Marks.

Just who might be on your list, and why? I can’t wait to hear your responses.

(Original post here – Friday Fun – Your Writer’s Wisdom Council)

 

 

 

Live to Write - Write to Live

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Welcome to the New Year! Another 365 days of your journey as a writer. Huzzah! Let’s imagine that to help you with all your New Year’s intentions, goals, and plans, that you can assemble a  “Writer’s Wisdom Council” to advise and guide you. And let’s imagine that you can populate this council with a) characters from your favorite books, b) authors (living or dead), or c) a combination of both characters and authors. Who would you choose to sit on your council and why?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: What a great set of questions for the new year! At first glance I can’t think of any helpful characters that could help guide me other…

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POV by Rick Stepp-Bolling

Just how do you make the best POV choice when crafting your masterpiece? Author and retired writing professor Rick Stepp-Boiling breaks it down for us (courtesy of Wendy Van Kamp, and No Wasted Ink).

No Wasted Ink

Tell Tale Heart

POV: How I Stopped Worrying About Myself and Started Using an Effective Persona

How often do beginning and even experienced writers get red-penciled for a POV change in the middle of something they are writing? Okay, I can raise my hand along with the rest of you. POV or point of view lapses are not uncommon. Usually, those mistakes are minor, say changing from one character’s perspective to another on the same page when you are writing in third person limited (I’ll explain that later). The more grievous error would be switching from first person to third person, or utilizing second person when you meant to use third person objective. So does any of this make sense? Let’s take a deep breath and review some of the basics of creating an effective persona for your story.

Persona, as I am defining it here, is your storyteller. In other words, who…

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Interrogation—Ryan Sayles

Thanks again to S.W. lauden whose interview with Ryan Sayles on his new book,”The Subtle Art of Brutality” gets some interesting feedback on the art of literary three’s:

“I try to work in pairs of threes in a book. Three events, all connected somehow, each more dire than the last. The three fires in SAOB, the three lovers. I heard somewhere that the human mind likes three. It also likes odd numbers. I learned that in photography composition. So using three of whatever in a story seems like a fitting application,” Sayles.

S.W. Lauden

Who: Ryan Sayles

What: Author of SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY, WARPATHTHAT ESCALATED QUICKY! and the forthcoming GOLDFINCHES and I’M NOT HAPPY ‘TIL YOU’RE NOT HAPPY. He’s had over two dozen short stories in print and is a founding member of Zelmer Pulp.

Where: Missouri

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just read your intense and engrossing novel, THE SUBTLE ART OF BRUTALITY. How did you develop the “h​alf predator and half savior” c​haracter of ​Richard Dean Buckner? How about the story?

First off, thank you for the compliments. They really do mean a lot. The idea of Buckner popped up in 2006 while I was stationed in the San Francisco Bay Area. I wanted to write a hardboiled character who was so hardboiled he was scraping the line between awesome and cartoonish. I wanted to crank everything up to…

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Mia Phoebus Remembers Tennessee Williams

A day with Mia Phoebus at Gatsbys books in Long Beach. The author/poet wow’d the crowd with her energetic, lively, readings and persona.
Mia’s life and times with Tennessee Williams make for extrodinary story telling, but don’t take my word for it. Grab her book, and read all about it!

AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

M-G Mia reading 2 Mia reads from her first book of poetry, REMINDERS OF AN I NOT LEFT BEHIND.

NINETY-FOUR YEARS YOUNG and she had the audience at GATSBY BOOKS hanging on every word. Mia Elkovsky Phoebus showed us the character, intellect, and energy that so fascinated Tennessee Williams way back in 1940. The event was the release of Mia’s latest book, WALKING THE DUNES WITH TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, a poetic memoir of the Provincetown glory days so often mentioned in Tennessee’s biographies.

When I say the audience hung on every work, I’m not exaggerating. Mia’s rich, resonent voice filled the shop easily and she poured operatic emotion into her reading. Sean Moore, the owner of Gatsby’s and a poet himself, called the work “remarkable,” and instantly invited Mia to come back early in 2016.

M-G arrival w Sean Mia and Sean with her books.

Sean mentioned that a sample copy left at the store a week ago for him…

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Interrogation—Paul D. Brazill

So folks,
Here’s an awesome double dose of author to author wisdom from crime writers extraordinaire S.W. Lauden and Paul D. Brazill. Interviews just don’t get much better than this!
Lauden’s questions are brilliant as always, and Brazill’s quirky, dark comic form seeps right through, and straight into his words for fellow aspiring crime writers:

Lauden: “Any advice you would give to up-and-coming crime writers?What’s one pitfall you would tell them to avoid?”
Brazill: “Never give or listen to advice..”

Never Indeed! Read on, for more…

S.W. Lauden

profile pic Dec 2014 (2)Who: Paul D. Brazill

What: Author of KILL ME QUICK!, GUNS OF BRIXTON, COLD LONDON BLUES and THE LAST LAUGH, AND OTHER SHOTS OF NOIR.He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc. member whose writing has been translated into Polish, Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including three editions of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST BRITISH CRIME. He has edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling TRUE BRIT GRIT–with Luca Veste.

Where: Poland

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just read your new novella KILL ME QUICK! It’s gritty, fast-paced and hilarious. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

I was in correspondence with the great Cathi Unsworth after reading her novel WEIRDO and Graham Greene’s BRIGHTEN ROCK back to back. We noticed that there weren’t too many other examples of…

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Blogging and Me: Three Years Later and Seven Lessons In

Michelle at The Green Study shares some Blogging 101 tips. Informative, interesting, and inciteful words here, author to author!
Enjoy!

The Green Study

The Writing WallThree years ago yesterday I typed my first post called Climbing the Wall. It was a little 488 word ditty about starting something new. My public writing had always been confined to my high school paper or departmental newsletters. I once had a poem published in a town paper and that still remains the height of my writing career. I was 10.

canstockphoto7296234This is all to say that the first post felt like a very big deal. I didn’t really understand blogging or the fact that there were a million people like me doing the exact same thing, shooting off their words into an echo chamber. With trepidation and anxiety, I hit the Publish button. And then nothing happened.

Three years and 259 blog posts later, here is what I’ve learned about blogging and about myself as a blogger:

Blogging, Inc. is not my thing. I’ve gone several…

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HOW TO “WRITER”

A terrifically funny and poignant Thanksgiving post, from author Brandon Scott, at http://coolerbs.com, by way of author, Paul White, on the trials and tribulations of being a writer. It will make you laugh, while also sneaking in some sound, author to author advice.

Thanks much for this, Brandon:

“Can I make a living as a writer?
That really depends on what type of writing you want to do. Fiction writing is really risky and hard. You could crash and burn at any moment, and that’s assuming you manage to get off the ground at all. Ghostwriting or technical writing, on the other hand, is fairly consistent work, and pays decent. Editing, which is sort of like writing in its own way, also pays well. Writing for a website is actually feasible, but the website has to be really successful. It’s entirely possible, but it’s an upward battle.” (White)

Ramblings from a writer's mind

ill-1

Originally posted on http://coolerbs.com/  (Now updated & re-posted here!)

 JANUARY 17, 2015

For everyone who wants to be a writer, I present the honest answers to all of your questions:

What are writers?

People who write words, preferably ones that chain together to mean something.

Can I become a writer?

Yes.

Who can be a writer?

Anyone.

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Guest Blog: Because January is Cold and Hammett Died Broke by Aaron Philip Clark

A blast past, but a terrific guest blog here from Paul Brazill’s site, courtesy of  Aaron P Clark.

Clark relates how Hammett has been a main force of genre influence for crime writers everywhere, in spite of the fact that he was over looked in his day, and still is in certain literary circles.

” As the anniversary of Hammett’s death nears, I think crime writers of today can still learn a lot from how he lived and wrote…always fresh and never formulaic. He helped solidify a kind of crime writer’s paradigm. He wrote fast, drank hard; he was a master of sharp dialogue, double entendre and quick wit…a renegade style of writing, the kind that if he were alive today would keep him off of Oprah’s big yellow couch…” Clark

PAUL D. BRAZILL

 
“I’ve been as bad an influence on American literature as anyone I can think of.”
Dashiell Hammett
 
I seem to get most of my best writing done during the cold weather months. You may assume this is because it’s too unpleasant to spend time outside and most of my time is spent indoors, but this would not be the case. There is simply something about the winter that brings out the worst in people, and for a crime fiction author that’s a good thing. I’m an avid reader of newspapers. I mostly read the crime sections and it always seems like during the winter the crimes get more desperate, more ballsy, more bizarre; more, dare I say, inspirational. Perhaps it’s because of the holidays? I once read that the crime rate goes up significantly during the months of December and January, and so does the suicide rate…

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Interrogation—Mike McCrary

Thanks Mr. Lauden for yet, another great interview!
The question about different approaches to short stories vs the longer form is a great one, and Mr. McCrarry’s answer is worth reading.
If you’re trying to make the move too, you know that it can be tough.
And it’s nice to know that Mr. McCrarry winds up not using a lot of the pre-work, and as puts it, “wings it in the end.”
Boy, can I relate!
Would luv to hear more thoughts on the topic!

S.W. Lauden

Who: Mike McCrary

What: He has been a waiter, a securities trader, dishwasher, investment manager and an unpaid Hollywood intern. He’s quit corporate America, come back, been fired, been promoted, been fired again. Currently he is a screenwriter and author who writes stories about questionable people who make questionable decisions.

Where: Austin, TX

Interviewed conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Your 2013 novel, REMO WENT ROGUE, is one hell of a read—fast-paced, vicious and dark. How did the character of Remo come together?

Thank you, sir. Glad you dug it. Yeah, Remo kinda came out of a fascination of defense attorneys and the weirdness of their jobs. All the information that must be swirling around their heads at any given time, knowing all the horrible shit that your clients have done and it’s your job to set them free or at least get the best deal…

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Editing Tip #110 – Knowing What Format You’re Writing in is Half the Battle

M.J. Mores breaks down category genres and expected word count for us in the traditional sense. Some guidelines to adhere to especially when submitting, and looking for an agent!

Many new writers know of the two main categories of writing: Novels and Short Stories. Occasionally emerging writers are also familiar with the term Novella but this is where things start to get ‘sticky’. Certain genres do well as novellas and certain others not so much. And then, if you can believe it, there are over a dozen forms of Flash Fiction (smaller than a Short Story) and something called the Novelette…

What?

Let’s break this down.

Flash Fiction: 6 – 1000 words (6 word stories, micro-fiction, postcard fiction, short short stories, sudden fiction, etc.)

by bonnybbx CC0 Via Pixabay by bonnybbx CC0 Via Pixabay

Short Story: 1000 – 7,500 words

Novelette: 7,500 – 17,500

Novella: 17,500 – 40,000

Novel: 40,000+

Genre Specific Word Counts.

Picture books: 350 – 600 words

Early Readers: individual publishers set targets according to reading level, but under 3,500

Chapter books: 6,000 – 10,000

Middle Grade (or…

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#MockPit 2

To all you potential submitters:
A mock twitter-pitch contest, held by Kyra Nelson, just in time practice for the real thing. Get your ducks in order, and go for it!

Captain (Query) Hook

Hey guys! After the success of the first round of #MockPit, I’ve decided to host it again. This round will take place on Wednesday, November 18th and will run officially from noon to 7 pm EST. See below for more details.

What is #MockPit?

MockPit is a practice round for Twitter pitch contests like PitMad. I will be going through pitches and offering suggestions for improvements. If I favorite your pitch, I think it’s great just the way it is! I’ll also be giving away a handful of critiques, so there’s some extra incentive to participate.

How to enter:

  1. Follow me at @kyramnelson.
  2. Tweet your pitch using #MockPit. You do not need to @ me.
  3. Get feedback from me.
  4. Pay it forward! Favorite or comment on other people’s pitches. This can be a great way to support others and make new friends!

What are the rules?

  1. Only one…

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10 Authors + 4 Bands + 1 DJ = Free

Hey all
There’s this amazing event happening Saturday night at “The Frog Spot” in L.A., with well known and newcomer crime fiction authors the likes of Eric Beetner, Sarah Chen, Danny Gardner, S.W. Lauden, and more!
And to top it off, a bunch of great bands to follow!
If you’re in the area, drop on by! Readings start around 5, and music around 6:30. Good times sure to be had by all!

S.W. Lauden

KillolaThis amazing event is happening THIS SATURDAY at The Frog Spot in LA.

There will be ten fiction and non-fiction authors reading (5-6:30ish, in no particular order):

  • Eric Beetner
  • Sarah M. Chen
  • Danny Gardner
  • Heather Havrilesky
  • S.W. Lauden
  • Tony Pierce
  • David Rensin
  • Travis Richardson
  • Stephen Jay Schwartz
  • Johnny Angel Wendell

markodesantisFour bands playing (6:30-9:30):

  • Johnny Angel Wendell & The Fabulous Knuckerholes—6:30pm to 7:00pm
  • Dylan Champion—7:15pm to 7:45pm
  • Ridel High—8:00pm to 8:30pm
  • Killola—8:45pm to 9:30pm

PLUS—globetrotting rock and roll DJ Marko DeSantis!

Open to the public. No cover charge, but proceeds from beer, wine and snacks benefit Friends of the LA River!

Come on out and get rad!

ROL

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6 Tips To Hook A Reader on Page One

Thanks for this Ms. Watters. Some terrific insight here for us on how to hook our readers from page one! Much appreciated!

Carly Watters, Literary Agent Blog

I’ve read thousands of “page ones.” Very often I don’t read page two.

Sometimes all I read is that first page and I make judgements based on what I see there. As an agent and a reader my practice is that if I’m not connecting with the material I move on–and quickly.

I wish I had time to give writers (and their books) more of a chance but I can tell a lot by one page: sense of dialogue, setting, pace, character, voice, and writing talent–yes, usually all from one page. Five at the most.

So how are you supposed to get us past one page?

6 Tips To Hook A Reader on Page One

1. Learn how to balance what readers need to know vs. what you, as the writer, want to tell us. I can sense a writer who is trying to show off very quickly. It really only takes…

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Interrogation—Patricia Abbott

Thanks to Mr. Lauden, we get another insider point of view from writer Patricia Abbott on making the difficult transition from short stories to the longer form. Definitely not as easy as you’d think!
“I am hesitant to give much advice other than to read a lot and more than just crime fiction…and stop writing short stories before you hit 150. And stay in the chair” (Abbott).

S.W. Lauden

Who: Patricia Abbott

What: The author of more than 140 published short stories, one of which won the Derringer in 2009 (“My Hero”). She is the co-editor with Steve Weddle of DISCOUNT NOIR and the author of two ebooks: HOME INVASION, a novel in stories, and MONKEY JUSTICE (stories).

In 2015, Polis Books published her first print book CONCRETE ANGEL, which garnered a starred review from LIBRARY JOURNAL and a good review from BOOKLIST. In 2016, Polis will publish SHOT IN DETROIT. Both are standalone books. Figuring out how to write series detective stories is still in her future. She is also the senior movie reviewer for CRIMESPREE MAGAZINE.

Where: Detroit

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just read CONCRETE ANGEL and found it to be funny, dark and devastating. How did the multi-decade tale of Evelyn “Eve” Moran and her daughter Christine come…

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Friday Noir: River Of Doubt

A touch of the Friday Noir, courtesy of Jersey photographer/ Springsteen fan. Check out his site for your Friday dosage, prose and pics, to boot!

Thanks for this, Mr. Krajnak!

JerseyStyle Photography

Sometimes it’s a wonder where we end up, no?

Things bouncing a long all nice and easy.

You’re finally getting some reach in this world.

Then all of a sudden, through luck or happenstance, you get T-boned.

Could be physical, could be mental.

Which is worse?

I don’t know.

The hardness of this world…

Just grinds our dreams away.

And we’re left with what we’re left with.

Best to keep the gat cocked and loaded.

May be your best option, sometimes.

Awash in this river of doubt.

© Mark V. Krajnak 2012 | JerseyStyle Photography | All rights Reserved

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Interrogation—David Rensin

Wow, Kudo’s to Mr. Lauden for another great interview. Now I can’t wait to read Mr. Rensin’s book on Miki Dora.
I can so relate to it all, since I grew up in So. Cal, with a brother who lived to surf, basically two, three times a day, every day, and who had the same frame of mind with regards to the crowds in the waves as Dora did.
Especially laughed hard when he said that Dora would literally toss them on their boards if they got in his way!
Oh, Rensin gives some solid tips on co-writing for new authors. too.

Another terrific interview, Mr. Lauden. Keep em’ coming!

S.W. Lauden

Who: David Rensin

What: Author and co-author of sixteen books, seven of them New York Times bestsellers. They include: ALL FOR A FEW PERFECT WAVES, the oral/narrative biography of legendary rebel surfer Miki Dora; THE MAILROOM, an oral history of what it’s like to start at the bottom in show business reaching for the top, and DEVIL AT MY HEELS and DON’T GIVE UP, DON’T GIVE IN—both with Louis Zamperini.

Where: Ventura, CA

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Your oral history of Miki Dora’s life, ALL FOR A FEW PERFECT WAVES, is the definitive portrait of the legendary surfer. How would you explain Miki Dora to somebody who has never heard of him before? How did your opinion of him change researching and writing the book?

Miki Dora personified the rebel heart of surfing. He was king of Malibu when that break was queen in the 50s…

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Where Do Ideas Come From and What Will They Think if I Write Them?! by Anonymous-9

Anonymous 9 talks pantsers vs outliners, banned cats, and pen names to      protect, all while building up. A must read for all up and coming writers who like herself, tend to fly by the seat of their pants!

( Much thanks to Elizabeth White for the original interview posting)

It is my extreme pleasure to welcome to the blog today the woman, the myth, the legend… Anonymous-9. Where Do Ideas Come From? None of my ideas come fully formed. Inspiration is unusually sourced. For instance, way back in 2008, I was eagerly searching for e-zine publishers for my third and

Source: Where Do Ideas Come From and What Will They Think if I Write Them?! by Anonymous-9

Interrogation—Benoît Lelièvre

Mr. Lauden scores yet another incredible interview with author Mr. Lelièvre, on the art of the blog and social media.
Especially good for us newbie’s on the scene. And as usual, his questions are so great at getting to the heart of the matter.
I particularly like what he has to say about using Goodreads, that it’s “where the readers are” and to use facebook as a “platform for you to stand out, be your best self and improve the daily life of your audience.”

S.W. Lauden

Author - 2Who: Benoît Lelièvre

What: Benoît Lelièvre is a pop culture blogger and author who is also a gigantic basketball nerd. He lives with his better half Josie and his dog Scarlett. You can read him on Dead End Follies, BallBallBallBall and in Zelmer Pulp anthologies.

Where: Montreal

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

DEAD END FOLLIES turned six this week. What was the inspiration for your site? How has it evolved in six years?

Late 2008, I started working the night shift at an IT helpdesk in Montreal. It was a brutal job and a crazy schedule. In many ways, it was the beginning of my adult life. I had spent my early adulthood sheltered in academia and I thought I was being clever for doing so until I began a master’s degree and started losing faith in the process. The time where someone looked over my…

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Award winning crime fiction author Les Edgerton, on how to dump the “Rubber Ducky”….

( Much thanks to Virginai Mcgreggor for original blog post)

” A good example of a Ducky that never comes up is Thelma and Louise. It becomes clear over the course of the movie that something terrible happened to Louise (Susan Sarandon) in Texas; that’s why the two women take the long way around to the Mexican border. You begin to realize that she must have been raped in Texas, and then disbelieved in court. That she probably shot her attacker…But Louise never says anything explicit about it in the movie, and that makes her backstory all the stronger. It’s only delivered via hints.And, the first hint doesn’t even appear until more than a third of the way into the movie.” (Edgerton)

WRITING MASTERCLASS BY LES EDGERTON: (THE DANGER OF BACKSTORY (OR THE RUBBER DUCKY)

original_ppp3

Les Edgerton is a wonderful novelist and writing teacher. His life and his writing are an inspiration. Here is one of his blog posts on the danger of including  backstory  – or, as he calls it the ‘Rubber Ducky.’ It’s a typically no-nonsense and hugely helpful  kick up the backside as regards focusing on writing what matters to readers.

(From Sydney Lumet’s and Paddy Chayevsky’s writings on the subject.)

I am going to rant about the ‘Rubber Ducky’ theory of backstory for a bit. I’m using material from Sydney Lumet and Paddy Chayevsky, which were intended for screenwriters, but apply just as much for novelists.

The ‘Rubber Ducky’ is Paddy Chayevsky’s term for when the hero or villain, at a lull in the action, explains that he is the way he is because his mother took away his rubber ducky when he was three.

It’s always a nice scene, well acted, beautifully lit, with a powerfully written monolog that the writer spent days on. And totally unnecessary in most stories and overused… It usually comes from not trusting the reader’s or viewer’s intelligence to “get it”…

It’s also the source for many of those godawful “prologues” in newer writer’s manuscripts. It’s often their protagonist’s Rubber Ducky and as such is a total waste of paper and/or electrons.

The character’s past may be crucial to your story. Batman is haunted by the murder of his parents by a mugger when he was small. That’s why he likes to dress up in latex and beat the tar out of muggers. In The Terminator, the hero’s past, which is in the future, is the hellish future of the entire human race. It sets up the stakes for the whole movie. In movies like these, we do need to know about the hero’s past. You will need to keep coming back to that past, to give it the weight it deserves. Both Batman and The Terminator, in fact, start with the hero’s backstory before getting into the main story.

But if all you’re trying to do is give your hero more emotional depth, for the sake of emotional depth, without integrating his backstory into your story, you are running the risk of awakening the dread Ducky.

The strongest way to create a sense of character is to give the character things to do and say on screen that give us a sense of a person. If the character’s personality doesn’t leap off the page, readers will feel that the character is flat. And personality is created by how he or she reacts to the obstacles encountered in the struggle. How he or she is proactive in resolving the story problem and isn’t simply reactive or passive. Development executives will ask to know more about the protagonist’s past. You will surrender to the urge to put in a Rubber Ducky. Then if the picture becomes a go, the actors will get attached to the Rubber Ducky scene, because it shows they can Act. So the Ducky stays in the picture. (To its detriment.)

In novels, the same thing happens when the characters are seen as flat. Many times, in my classes and in private coaching of novelists, I’ve advised the writer that their protagonist just wasn’t interesting. Almost always, the first reaction is to give him/her a Rubber Ducky, thinking that giving him some traumatic experience in his or her past will render him a more interesting character. Except… it doesn’t. Way back then, when the Ducky took place, sure, that may have been interesting. That was then, this is now. The Ducky is ancient history. The reader knows the character survived so it loses most of its emotional punch.

Almost always the core reason the character is flat is because the author is delivering him one of two ways.

One, he gives us a character who is predominantly in his mind. We’re mostly witnessing the protagonist’s thoughts. He’s just not doing anything but… musing. Musing doesn’t affect the emotion of a reader. Only one thing affects the readers’ emotions—the character acting on his/her behalf to resolve a problem. With… action.

The second way the protagonist is rendered uninteresting is that he engages in a lot of dialog. He “solves” story problems by… talking. It’s the same thing, basically, as a character ruminating about in his head. The only difference is the writer is delivering the same thing by having the character say those thoughts out loud. To another character. While dialog is part of action, that brand of dialog isn’t. This is a common fault of beginning screenwriters as well as novelists. Newer screenwriters, in particular, have bought into a myth that movies are mostly dialog. Plays are, but screenplays really aren’t. A successful movie works the same way as a successful novel. The audience wants to see the characters doing something. Sometimes, that “something” is dialog, but far less than many think. A movie that depends on heavy doses of dialog has a name. It’s called a “talking heads” movie. A novel that depends on heavy doses of dialog has a name as well. It’s called “unpublished.” Or, “self-published.”

A too-obvious Ducky cheapens the character.

Kurt Russell’s character Jack O’Neil in Stargate is suicidal because his young son killed himself accidentally with a pistol he left around the house. To make us care more about his otherwise unpleasant character, O’Neil delivers a small monologue to James Spader’s character Daniel Jackson. It is important to the picture that O’Neil is suicidal, but not why; and given O’Neil’s contempt for Daniel Jackson, it’s unlikely that he would open up to him about his guilt and shame. The emotional truth of the situation is that Daniel Jackson would never know why O’Neil is so willing to die. It might have been more emotionally truthful for the movie never to relay this information. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Kurt Russell wanted the audience to know that his character had a good reason for being such a bastard. Actors want you to have sympathy for them.

A good example of a Ducky that never comes up is Thelma and Louise. It becomes clear over the course of the movie that something terrible happened to Louise (Susan Sarandon) in Texas; that’s why the two women take the long way around to the Mexican border. You begin to realize that she must have been raped in Texas, and then disbelieved in court. That she probably shot her attacker which was why she ended up in jail. But Louise never says anything explicit about it in the movie, and that makes her backstory all the stronger. It’s only delivered via hints. And, the first hint doesn’t even appear until more than a third of the way into the movie.

If development execs are asking you for the Ducky, the screenplay isn’t working for them. Don’t give them the Ducky, but do focus your scenes so they show the character.

Go through your script again, scene by scene, and make sure that every time the hero acts, it shows us who he is.

Make sure you communicate how he feels about what he’s doing, and give him a fresh way of doing it, one someone else wouldn’t have… If an agent or an editor gives you the same note, use the same strategy for making the protagonist interesting—one the reader will want to follow. Not to see his brilliant and riveting thoughts… but to see how he struggles against huge odds to gain his objective. And in original ways. Then, you’ll have an interesting character.

Sidney Lumet said:

In the early days of television, when the kitchen sink school of realism held sway, we always reached a point where we explained the character. Around two-thirds of the way through, someone articulated the psychological truth that made the character the person he was. [Paddy] Chayefsky and I used to call this The Rubber Ducky School of Drama: ‘Someone once took his rubber ducky away from him, and that’s why he’s a deranged killer.’ That was the fashion then, and with many producers and studios it still is.

I always try to eliminate the rubber-ducky explanations. A character should be clear from his present actions. And his behavior as the picture goes on should reveal the psychological motivations. If the writer has to state the reasons, something’s wrong in the way the character has been written.

And finally…

The same principles apply to memoir. A memoir that is based mostly on the author’s own Rubber Ducky, is one that is probably going to end up largely a victim story. Unfortunately, those are pretty much over. That becomes a ‘me’ story and we’re not much interested in those these days.

Create your characters in the ‘present’ of your story. Give him or her a compelling problem and put obstacles in their path and give them really cool and interesting (and unexpected) ways to overcome those obstacles.

Keep out of their heads as much as possible. Not entirely—just less than you might be tempted to. Not as much going on in there as you might think…

Hope this helps!

Blue skies,

Les

Interrogation—William E. Wallace

You ask some great question here, Mr Lauden. Especially about Mr. Wallace’s research habits. It’s interesting that he finds less need to write the story once he’s done a lot of research. I would think it would be the other way around. Either way, I can’t wait for Bottom Street to come out. Sounds terrific.
And, I like what Mr. Wallace has to say about novella’s, that:
“they give you room to expand the story and explore the characters more, but are more the kind of length that people seem to be looking for in this limited-attention-span age.”

So true today!
Thanks for this, Mr. Lauden!

S.W. Lauden

WEW with gunsWho: William E. Wallace

What: A former award-winning investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Naval intelligence analyst, private eye, house painter, cook, dishwasher, magazine writer and journalism professor. His most recent book, DEAD HEAT WITH THE REAPER, was released by All Due Respect books in August 2015. His short fiction has appeared in All Due Respect, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter Online, Near to the Knuckle, Over My Dead Body, Dead Guns, Plan B, Spinetingler and Dark Corners.

Where: Oakland

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

The first of the two novellas in DEAD HEAT WITH THE REAPER is called “Legacy”. Is the character Frank Trask based on anybody specific?

Trask is an amalgam of a number of people I’ve met, but he is primarily modeled on my own father, a construction mechanic and blacksmith who drank heavily and died in 1994. In fact, the backhanding of the biker, one of…

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Check Out QuarterReads.com

Hey all you fellow novices
This might be just what you’re looking for. An even playing field, so to speak. I’m definitely looking into it!

S.W. Lauden

QuarterReadsLate last year I interviewed Ian Rose, founder of a short fiction website called QuarterReads. If you haven’t checked QuarterReads out yet, it’s a pretty cool site where writers can publish short fiction without an involved submission process. Readers can read those stories for only 25 cents a pop, as the name implies. Most of that money goes to the writer. Here’s what Rose had to say about it in our interview at the time:

How is QuarterReads different from short fiction magazines/e-zines?

QuarterReads is different because we’re trying to carve out a space between the magazines and the self-pub community. The former has great quality but a limited scope and focus, determined largely by the wonderful editors that run those markets. The latter has more in terms of quantity than you could ever want, but lacks even the most basic quality control, allowing for the complete range from dreck to…

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Steve Weddle Chimes in on Do Some Damage:

Take a look as Steve Weddle shares some super thoughtful insights:
Thanks for this, Mr. Weddle!

But you know what you can do? Tweet me your word count. Facebook your opening paragraph. Because I bet it’s wonderful. Or maybe it sucks. But you know what? You did a thing. While the soy latte, coffee-shop writers were home in bed or matching their trucker caps to their flannel shirts and thick, unnecessary eyeglasses, you were hand-cramping your way through that scene that had been eating at the back of your brain for a week. And you got the damn thing down on paper. Con-friggin-grats.

Post that word count. Share that sentence. Then get your ass back in the chair tomorrow and do it again. Because I’m sitting here with an empty space in my TBR pile and I’ve been waiting for something wondrous.

Those who find they’re touched by madness
Sit down next to me.
Those who find themselves ridiculous
Sit down next to me.

Do Some Damage is a group of crime writers, each with a different voice and something to say. From grizzled vets to grizzly rooks, they pull back the curtain on the way the industry works. Whether beating deadlines or beating characters, each week they share their thoughts on reading, writing, plot,…
DOSOMEDAMAGE.COM

Interrogation—Les Edgerton

Mr. Edgerton’s and Mr. Lauden get real as the MFA-MA debate rocks on…It’s worthy reading, folks!
Thanks for this guys!

“Since the mid-90’s our culture has more and more been subverted by the insidiousness and odiousness of the political correctness mindset. It even reaches back in history to sanitize classics such as HUCKLEBERRY FINN. More and more, we’ve become a nation afraid of words. Of words! These cockroaches who promote PCism should be treated like the vermin they are. Language and the clear and precise use of language lies at the heart of all of our freedoms. When we begin to proscribe which usages we allow and which we don’t, we’ve successfully torn away the very underpinnings of freedom of thought and expression.” ( Edgerton)

S.W. Lauden

LESEDGERTONWho: Les Edgerton

What: An ex-con who spent two years and change in prison on a plea-bargained down 2-5 sentence for burglary, armed- and strong-arm robbery, and possession with intent to sell, at Pendleton Reformatory in Indiana. Since his release, he’s earned a B.A. from I.U. and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College and had 18 books published. His career for many years as a criminal and outlaw lend an air of rare verisimilitude to his crime novels.

Where: Indiana

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just read your most recent novel, THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING and loved it. Very dark and very funny. How did you come up with the character of Pete Halliday? Why New Orleans?

FINAL COVER FOR KIDNAPPING2The novel stemmed from a short story that was published in The South Carolina Review and was about a guy who embodied many of the…

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So This Is What It’s Like To Get Published (Part 1)

Mr. Lauden is kind enough to share his exciting journey to getting published with the rest of us novices who are still as he puts it, “dipping our toes in these murky waters,” just feeling out the landscape and writing our best to get in. Stay tuned for more of his sage advice as his career takes off like a rocket!

“Given the sudden increase in publishing activity around here, I thought I would start a semi-regular blog series about my beginner’s path to publishing. I am no expert, not by a long shot, and I don’t pretend to be. But as a rookie myself, I appreciate any insight I can get into this mysterious and often frustrating world. I hope you will enjoy what I have to share—whether you say “That sounds like a good idea. I think I’ll do that too,” “Why would anybody publish this idiot?!?” or something in between.”

S.W. Lauden

Florida 2

(Updated August 23, 2015)

As many of you already know, Down & Out Books will be publishing my novella, CROSSWISE, in March of next year. I am beyond thrilled to work with D&OB and their fearless leader Eric Campbell (read my interview with him HERE). This is one publisher I have had my sights on since I decided to start writing mystery/crime fiction a few years ago. I can’t wait to see my name on the incredible author roster alongside Eric Beetner, Les Edgerton, Anonymous-9, Jack Getze, Anthony Neil Smith, Gary Phillips, Terrence McCauley and many, many others.

And just last week I announced that my novel BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION—the book that started all of this for me, and the first in a planned series—has been picked up by Rare Bird Books. It should be available (GULP) in October of THIS year. Guess I’ll be seeing you at Bouchercon in Raleigh.

rsz_screen_shot_2015-08-16_at_84932_am

Read…

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Interrogation: Sarah M. Chen

S.W. Lauden strikes a chord here with writer Sarah M. Chen, on her rise from struggling writer to successful author. Fellow sisters in crime, take note:
Mz. Chen has some great words of encouragement for us:

“Writing is so solitary that if I didn’t join Sisters in Crime/LA, I’d probably have given up at the first sign of writer’s block to go be a professor at my dad’s college. I credit my entire writing success actually to Sisters in Crime. If it wasn’t for stumbling upon their booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in 2006, I never would have discovered the courage to keep writing. They are the most supportive group of people, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.”

S.W. Lauden

Sarah M. Chen photoWho: Sarah M. Chen

What: Sarah M. Chen has always worked a variety of odd jobs, usually all at once, ranging from script reader to bartender. She continues this trend now as an indie bookseller, transcriber, and private investigator assistant. Sarah’s crime fiction short stories have appeared online and in several anthologies, the most recent being Elm Books’ Death and the Detective with her short story WHITE DEVIL. Her noir novella, CLEANING UP FINN, will be released in 2015 by Stark Raving Group.

Where: Los Angeles

You started publishing mystery fiction in 2007 and have published several short stories since then. What happened in 2007 that made you want to break into writing? 

I’ve always wanted to write since I was a little girl, actually, but it’s hard to pursue that dream when you have parents who don’t think writing is a legit career. So I did the college and graduate…

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MFA or not to MFA by Josh Stallings—Part 6

Here’s the latest installment on the MFA/ MA series I helped spawn over at ashedit.com.
Mr. Stallings gets real for us, in a way that only he could.
Rock on, Josh!

AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

rsz_my_grandfather_was_forced_by_poverty_and_his_father’s_death_to_drop_out_in_the_sixth_grade

Josh 1

To help support his family he did many things, among them selling bootleg hooch to sailers on the Long Beach Pike. For a
lark he took the L.A. sheriff department’s entrance exam. He passed it and became a life long cop. When he was promoted to Chief of Corrections the brass discovered that although he had two honorary degrees from USC, he never graduated from high-school. There was a rapid scramble to get him a GED diploma. The man was well educated, he just didn’t go to school.

A fellow writer once referred to me and Pearce Hansen as street writers. I was proud to be associated with Hansen, but didn’t see the link. It took a while to understand street writer was code for ‘he ain’t gots no higher edumacation.’ That what I knew, I learned in the street. True, sort of. I learned some things in the street…

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Craig Faustus and S.W. Lauden Speak Writing

Question:
Just how does a budding crime fiction author get from killer short story to novella, to actual full-blown novel?
Answer:
Join us as we peek in on crime fiction author, Blogger and interviewer S.W. Lauden’s interrogation of author and Mystery Writers of America SoCal chapter President Craig Faustus, on his debut novel Go Down Hard, whose path was paved by way of Anthony Award nominated short story “Dead End” to longer Novella Psycho Logic, to the full blown novel-length, slam dunk feature show!
Faustus gets real on the day to day angst of our craft, handing out much needed food for thought, especially encouraging to any new authors out there on the scene out there struggling to get it right.

Lauden: Was your approach to writing the novella any different than writing the novel? How did you grow as a writer between publishing the novella and the novel?

Faustus: I think I learned most of the basics years ago. The problem is keeping them all in mind at the same time. It’s impossible. You focus on character and make a dumb plot mistake. You focus on style and forget about conflict. I think writing is like playing a sport: the more you do it, the fewer bonehead mistakes you make. You never stop making those mistakes but you do reduce their frequency as your literary muscle-memory plays an ever-expanding role. So I wouldn’t say I learned any specific lessons, but my writing improved because the added writing hours reduced my duh factor.

S.W. Lauden

CraigFaustusBuck_smallWho: Craig Faustus Buck

What: His debut noir mystery novel, GO DOWN HARD, was published by Brash Books in 2015 and was First Runner Up for Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award. His short story “Honeymoon Sweet” is currently nominated for both the Anthony and the Macavity Awards. He is chapter President of Mystery Writers of America SoCal.

Where: Los Angeles

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just finished reading your debut novel, GO DOWN HARD. It focuses on two of my favorite things—L.A. and rock and roll. How did you dream this story up? Why is L.A. the right place for this story?

After years toiling in TV, I was sick of outlining (a required step in selling a script), so when I turned to crime writing I just sat down and started. I had no idea where the book was going, but I…

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