As of this morning, my short story The Abyss is up at Pulp Metal Magazine!
Couldn’t be more thrilled!
Much gratitude to Jason Michel for taking it!
As always, your thoughts are more than welcome!
Much gratitude to Jason Michel for taking it!
As always, your thoughts are more than welcome!
Don’t know if you dressed up and went around the neighborhood hijacking candy, but the combination of the holiday, plus the sky getting darker way too early has me in a Friday Flash funk kind of mood, so here you go:
Inspired by Charli Mills weekly 99 words, no more no less flash-fiction challenge over at Carrotranch.com, monkeys are flying!
Hector cursed them; damn financial aid forms!
Jumping through hoops, that’s what this is. How the hell did they expect him to get all this filled out by Friday, with three papers, two exams and a final to suffer this week? Like monkeys flying bat-shit all over campus, it just wasn’t gonna happen!
What he needed was cash. Lots of it. And now!
The line grew longer by the second, and sensing his out, he took it! The grey gun-metal felt cold to his touch in his pack as he raised it, passing the point of no return…
“The synopsis strips away our pretty prose and all our verbal glitter and it lays our story bare…The synopsis is the skeleton of our story…
Another blogger recently alluded to the fact that if we can’t contain our story down to a concise, intriguing, and “want to read” synopsis, chances of getting an agent to read it, is slim to none.
This seems unfair, you might cry. Feels so unjust.
And you would have a point, to be sure. After all, our stories are our stories, expanse and hard-earned words all, and why should we have to boil it down to a nub?
But think of it from the Agent’s pov. As an Agent intern for the last 9 months I can tell you first hand; they are bombarded with stories from all over, their inboxes overflowing with literary goodness. And why should they pick yours to read over the others? I’ll tell you why. Because you’ve enticed them with the tale that can’t be tossed in your oh so short and sweet synopsis!
We all probably hate writing them, and cringe when having to cut out everything but the briefest brief. But it clarifies, optimizes, and increases your chances of getting read.
What’s your take on this? Luv to hear all about it.
A thoughtful post on where we actually do the deed from fellow scrivener Sarah Brentyn at sarahbrentyn.wordpress.com.
Being guilty of clicking away in a coffee shop as we speak, I’m notorious for frequenting the joints. Much like this old black and white from Holly-weird yesteryear, hanging out in a space filled with the aroma of freshly ground grounds and all kinds of humanity prowling around near me is enticing.
Yet, does any work really ever get done?? Honestly, no! Too many sticky fingers grabbing too many sticky buns and too much caffeine never really helped my writing. Sure, the brain gets fired up and emails get answered. But actually novel chapters in a setting so noisy I can’t hear myself think?
NO! Never happens!
For that, I gotta go bury in a cubicle ten feet deep in the bottom racks of the school library, where the only people around are busy typing as fast as I am and in just as much mental misery as I am in some shape or form!
So. My question of the week is out there! I really want to know! Where are you when your characters do the dastardly deeds and you spicy pages germinate best???
Tell me all about it!
“One of my biggest pet peeves as an agent reading slush is unrealistic dialogue. This is a huge indicator of skill for better or for worse. For me, this is a bigger red flag than any grammatical error…”
(Literary Agent, Carly Watters, on writing good dialogue; Source: 4 Ways To Write Better Dialogue)
Ms. Watters post on the matter got me musing alright! Dialogue, in its best state, is natural. When it flows like water and you can’t turn off the stream if you try, then you know, you’ve got something! When the characters interact and your fingers can’t seem to stop typing, as if they’re on autopilot, that’s when you’ve struck gold! Like that time I sat eavesdropping in an old leather booth at a local diner, jotting down everything the two old birds next to me were saying. One was practically mute while the other carried on the practically the whole conversation by himself, ping-ponging back and forth, asking and answering his own questions, and having a grand old-time doing it. It translated into a short flash, then a longer short-short for me. Nothing like the real thing!
But what about those days when the words feel more forced than anything else and reading it back, you practically choke on the sound it’s so stilted and vague! Don’t know about you but I have those moments. Never easy to write, one of the things I’ve found helpful is to have others read your dialog out loud. And not just in a workshop setting.
I’m talking about drama. Live, on stage actors, reading the parts. That’s where you’ll know for sure if it’s working or not. And the actors will probably be the first to let you know, in case you haven’t figured it out for yourself yet. If they feel funny saying it, chances are, it’s a pretty funny set of words to be spoken out loud!
What’s your take on the matter???
Luv to hear your thoughts on this one!
While you’re all out there waving the red, white and blue, and firing up those BBQ’s, don’t forget to take off your hat and give a wave to your local libraries and librarians who toil away for the sake of you, your kids, and your family’s insatiable reading prowess at large! By day and by night, these institutions and folks are the cornerstone of the American word, free speech, and our steadfast right to enjoy both!
As an MFA grad student, writer and prolific reader, I’ve probably spent over half my life in these places. Filled with gifted, educated, and wonderfully decent people attempting to spread the word, they are still the best free deal in town! Or, as David Nilsen tells us in this recent post from fourthandsycamore.com in On Neil Gaiman and Libraries,
“I’m going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I’m going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.”
What’s your take??? Salute me back with your thoughts…
Source: On Neil Gaiman and Libraries
Down and through the apple, over and over and over. Staring blankly out through the kitchen window, Kevin wondered what would happen if the apple weren’t an apple but instead, a head. Somebody’s head, but not just anybody’s head. It would have to be more wide than circular with orange hued lips and a V-shaped mouth and eyes that slanted slightly to the left when they looked at you. And nostrils the size of extra-big peanuts, sniffing in any hint of aggression coming its way. It would have to be…
“Dam it all to hell!!”
Kevin looked down at his hand, now crimson stained and the liquid was leaking to the left and the right and all over the cutting board. The apple that was green a moment ago was now anything but. Stinging like the worst splinter he’d ever recalled, his skin was now splitting like a zipper, only the split was expanding and getting wider.
Grabbing up the lose bit of skin now strewn like oatmeal, Kevin triaged his finger with wet paper towels clamped together so thick that no blood could get through, and cinched the knife with his left hand.
Needing a beer more than ever, he turned and pulled hard on the fridge with the free left hand.
He slammed the door shut on seeing nothing in the fridge but an empty Vodka bottle and a half eaten loaf of stale bread. He grabbed up the utensil, and turned toward his roomie’s door. They’d neve really gotten along well anyway. Bigger steps now, blade still glistening, he knocked hard twice, then kicked open the door….
Oh, as a bonus for your labor day weekend, here’s a great link to an excellent article on how to build your author brand through UTube and more! Thanks to Wendy Van Kamp and Adam Mulholland at nowastedink.com or this link!
YouTube offers content creators a way of cross-utilizing mediums to enhance and bridge engagement beyond a book. Authors wanting more presence should leverage this platform to reach a larger audien…Source: How Authors Can Promote On YouTube & Use Patreon by Adam Mulholland
Here’s a little something for you to gnaw on, if you’re like me, and am pondering the bridge to the depths of despair when it comes time for axing off your characters!
If it seems like a tough choice, just ask yourself the eternal question of the master, “To be, or not to be!” Hahahaha….if you write anything at all like yours truly, you’ll know the answer in a flash! A friday, fun flash, that is!
And now, some words from our sponsor, master of the deathly muse himself, Shakespeare…
(Thanks for sharing this on twitter, Mr. Moon! (@Mr.Moonunity) https://twitter.com/MrMoonUnity?cn=Zm9sbG93ZXI%3D&refsrc=email
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!
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.
HI all and happy Monday once again!
So this week a post caught my eye from Michelle, over at The Green Study.com,
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…
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!
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:
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,
(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.)
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,
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!
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>
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)
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 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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