Writers’ Group Recap: Managing Time

WP_000584This week was Quills & Quibbles Writers Group at Harrison County Public Library. Each month, we read and critique our works-in-progress, and we typically have a “Style Segment” which focuses on some specific aspect of the writer’s craft.  This month, we were talking time management.

As with last month’s notes, this is more a distillation of the group discussion than anything else, with everyone contributing their thoughts on the subject.

And just like last month, I may have lost some details (not to mention brain cells) to the excellent craft beer at Point Blank Brewery during the post-meeting pub time.  I enjoyed a Harpoon Leviathan, because steampunk.  Mmm… beer.

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Letting Internal Drama Derail Your Writing

I tend to talk a lot here about emotional drama, and the negative impact it has on your writing life. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about how Resistance takes the form of drama–the arguments, the uproar, the torrid relationships we use as a distraction to avoid our work. Julia Cameron also discusses how important it is to keep the drama on the page in The Write to Right and The Artist’s Way. Clearly, getting (and staying) entangled in turbulent, overwrought relationships and situations is a common way artists and writers self-sabotage.

However, not all drama is loud and obvious. You don’t wear all your emotional turmoil on your sleeve. Particularly if you’re an introvert,  you can go through a lot of internal angst without anyone around you being aware of it. The dramas playing out in your own head, peopled with shadow versions of the real people around you, can be just as distracting as the ones that happen out in the real world. Continue reading

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ONCE: And the jealous games people play

So, it looks like it’s time for another quick recap of Once Upon a Time.

First of all, I would like to say I totally called it. When they first introduced the character of the Wicked Witch/Zelena, I predicted envy was going to be her defining trait, and her green skin color was going to figure at least symbolically into that. Well, leave it to the writers of Once  to again take an idea that works just fine as a metaphor and make it completely literal.  (See also: Dad with a Peter Pan complex from the first half of the season.) Continue reading

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Sounds like Steam Spirit

blowhard_thumbThis is just an uber-quick post to let everybody know that Blowhard, Book One of The Clockwork Republics, is now available as an audiobook! You can find it on Audible, Amazon, and (I’m told, any minute now) iTunes.

The excellent Jason Davidson did the narration. Many kudos to Jason for an excellent job–he managed to give all three Hamm brothers distinct voices, and his voice for the nefarious Otto von Rudolph was pitch-perfect. A steampunk melodrama, with characters ranging from young cowboys to German railroad bosses to teenage girls, has to be a challenge for a voice actor.

At any rate, it’s about an hour long–the perfect thing to perk up your commute. At $3.95, it’s still less than the latte you were going to buy. And unlike that latte, audiobooks are a completely calorie-free indulgence.

And if you’re not on Audible, you might want to give it a try, especially if you’re like me and have a lengthy commute and not enough time to read as much as you’d like. For just $14.95/month, you can download as many audiobooks as you like (one at a time).

And there’s a FREE 30 Day Trial. (Full Disclosure: If Blowhard is the first one you download after signing up, I get a $50 reward.)

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How to Fracture a Fairytale

I sometimes ask my social networks for suggestions of classic fairytales to retell as steampunk stories. I thought it might be interesting to talk about my creative process, and exactly how I take these very familiar tales and turn them into something new and often unexpected.

Several people have suggested I do a retelling of “The Princess and The Pea.” So if I were going to write a steampunk version of that tale, here’s how I would go about it. Continue reading

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Writers Group Recap: Creating Atmosphere

WP_000584This week was Quills & Quibbles Writers Group at Harrison County Public Library. Aside from reading and critiquing each other’s work, each month we typically have a “Style Segment” which focuses on some specific aspect of the writer’s craft. This month, we had a spirited discussion on building atmosphere in fiction. It was too good a topic, and too good a conversation, to keep to just the people who were in attendance.

And we had a great group in attendance, including Marian Allen, Michael Williams, and Carol Preflatish–all published authors.  So let’s do a quick recap, while all this good stuff is still fresh in my mind. As much as I’d love to attribute all the ideas to their appropriate sources, I’ll be honest–I didn’t take detailed notes, my memory isn’t terrific, and a bunch of us went to Point Blank Brewery for beers after, which didn’t help my retention any.

If anybody wants to claim their particular contributions, feel free in the comments. :) Continue reading

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Are you experienced?

This week, Chris and I went to Experience Hendrix Live at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. I will admit, this was more for him than me. I do appreciate a good guitar solo and the music of Jimi Hendrix. However, thanks to my high sensitivity, I’m not so much a fan of crowds and loud noises. Also, when he told me he’d gotten balcony seats in the front row, I don’t think it really registered for me that the balcony at Whitney Hall is five stories above the floor.

So, me, tiny aisle, short guard rail, FIVE STORY DROP TO YOUR DEATH. Albeit a dramatic death with an appropriately dramatic soundtrack.

I did not have enough cash on me for the amount of alcohol it would have taken for me to relax in that environment. Also, I’m not sure Chris can still carry me if I’m completely unconscious.

However, the music itself was excellent, with Zakk Wylde, Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd being the standouts in my opinion.

It was one of those experiences I will tuck away in my memory, in the event I need to write a character who’s terrified of heights. I’m usually not, but for some reason this particular high place freaked me out. Or in case I need to write about a rock concert or an amazing guitar solo. Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Civility and Simians

This week is my monthly writers’ group, Quills and Quibbles, which meets at the Harrison County Public Library. Each month, we pick three random words as a writing prompt. The story can be about anything, but you have to include those three words. This month, the prompt is:

  • monkey
  • civil
  • mauve

So let’s see what I can come up with on the fly, shall we?

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If nothing else, the monkey was civil. He looked me in the eye, a calm expression on his face, and stirred the tea in the china cup set beside him. He contemplated me with an air of disdain, tugged at his necktie, and addressed me directly.

“You realize of course, madam, it’s nothing personal.”

I glared back at him, straining at the restraints. “It’s personal to me.”

The straps which held me in check were incongruous with the demure mauve wing-back chair to which they were attached. Such was the way of our simian masters. Brutal details woven through a tapestry of gentility.

“Well, you were demonstrating for equal rights. Our society balances on a precarious system of checks and balances. We need those strata. You need them. Otherwise, we’d be flung into utter chaos. Otherwise–”

“Otherwise, you can’t keep your death grip on power and privilege. You’re wasting your breath, hairball.” I smile in satisfaction as the look of primal rage passes his previously placid facade. I’ll pay for that taunt, but at least I got the satisfaction of seeing it get to him.

“Well, then. If I’m wasting my breath, there’s really no point in continuing yours, is there? We’d hoped we could come to some sort of understanding. You’ve gained a lot of influence, for one of your kind. You can be unusually articulate for a human.” He grimaced, and rang the copper bell next to his teacup. The two orangutan who had led me here were agents, polished and pressed in neat suits. The gorillas who entered to remove me were clearly executioners.

“Propriety and politeness, Miss Parker. They’d have taken you much farther than the path you chose. Pity you humans don’t understand the concepts.”

glyphAnd there you have it. A super short story, written in ten minutes. While it’s not terribly original (Thank you, Charleton Heston!), it does have some potential, with some editing and a better ending. Even if it’s never anything more than this, it’s good practice coming up with dialogue, characters, setting and motivation in a small space.

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Let It Go

I hold onto things too much. Or rather, I hold onto the wrong things.

Triumphs, kudos, compliments, and five-star reviews on Amazon? They slide off my back like water off a duck, barely permeating my consciousness. Every embarrassing gaffe and mistake? Burned permanently into my cerebral cortex and ready at a moment’s notice with the slightest reminder.

I should also confess I’m a terrible grudge-holder. I wish I was one of those people who could just blow up and get over things, but I don’t. I simmer. I stew. And I stay mad FOREVER. Forgiveness is not exactly my top virtue. Of course, the person I struggle most with forgiving is myself.

I should learn to let things go. Continue reading

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After the happily ever after

Everybody fantasizes about having their year.

A magical, golden year where everything falls into place, everyone seems to admire you, and the reality of your life lives up to the image you project on social media. Your career accelerates. Your risks pay off instead of blowing up in your face. Even the challenges and difficulties just add to your “plucky protagonist” mystique. The little details of everything, from your perfectly beat-up SUV to your perfectly ugly-cute dog to your perfectly quirky hairstyle, all add up to you being the star of your very own real-life romantic comedy.

The thing no one tells you about having a perfect year is what happens after. Even a perfect year can’t last forever. Continue reading