Sunday, July 16, 2017
Writing is a constant state of discovery. I’ve recently found two new ways to express the writer part of me: Flash fiction and cat poetry.
I’ve wanted to learn to write flash fiction from the day I first heard the term and had to look it up on Google to find out what it was. Since it takes me longer to write short fiction than an entire full-length book, I couldn’t imagine the process of conveying any sort of attention-grabbing tale in under 1000 words.
Flash fiction isn’t a new thing, having roots that go back to pre-history in the form of fables and parables. These extremely short works began reinventing themselves as they regained popularity a few decades ago with names like the “short-short story” and “sudden fiction”. As flash fiction evolved, it split even further into sub-genres. Flash, itself, got shorter, and dribble (the 50-word story), drabble (the 100-word story), 140-character stories known as twitterature, as well as the impossible-to-imagine six-word-story came about. I’ve read successful examples of all but still had no clue how the writers came up with their work.
When in doubt, learn from those who know. I took a workshop in flash fiction and this is what I found out:
FF “implies” a larger story.
FF is about giving the reader hints.
FF is about characters.
Describe parts instead of the whole.
Chose a universal theme.
Condense the story by picking the right words.
*FF can be a useful tool in blurb writing and even advertising.
The six-word-story was my nemesis, but apparently it’s all about hint. It’s a picture, a still life. It should evoke the imagination of the reader to fill in the blanks however they see fit. Here are my first attempts:
Anxiety. Short of breath. Not again!
Sign reads “Lost cat”. Heartbreak. Hope.
Six words? Give me a break!
What are some of your six-word-stories? I’d love to read them in the comment section.
And I haven’t forgotten about cat poetry. More on that next time.
Check out more by Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer at:
Friday, July 7, 2017
Does anyone else struggle with this one?
I was reading a post on Twitter this morning about how distractions can ruin a writer’s career. The irony hit me in the forehead—instead of writing that new novel I’ve been researching, I was cruising social media, in effect participating in those very distractions.
It’s not easy to be a writer these days. I’m not sure if it was any easier in Dashiell Hammett’s days or Geoffrey Chaucer’s but a million things compete for a writer’s attention today.
Master writer Michael Crichton had a shack in his backyard with no communications whatsoever allowing him absolute quiet and privacy. I nicknamed Crichton’s shack the Man Cave and decided I needed one of my own. Not having enough room in my backyard for a shack, I dedicated one of the bedrooms in my house (when my son moved out, also ensuring he couldn’t move back in!) to be a She Shed.
My She Shed has several bookcases filled with my favorite books, DVDs and mementoes from my life. It has a couch and a television but only as a monitor. No cable. My She Shed also has a retro turntable to play the LPs I still have and dearly love, plus a CD player. My father always said, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
In other words, I got carried away with my She Shed and provided more distractions of another kind. It’s easy to do and Crichton would not be pleased. However, I do have a retreat from the world and I don’t allow the Internet to follow me into my private space. There’s a door and most of the time, my family stays out if the door is closed. Real thinking can be and is conducted there. If no other writing activity is produced in my retreat, thinking is surely number one.
It’s unique for every writer: that fine balance between life’s activities and the discipline needed to sit at some writing device and do the work. That’s what writing is—old-fashioned, butt-in-the-seat work. Creative thought doesn’t always come easily and if it does, don’t take it for granted. We each need to find our own Man Cave or She Shed, those quiet places to do what we’re meant to do: write.
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Writers tend to fall into one of two broad categories: plotters or pantsers.
Plotters are those individuals who tend to have every aspect of their story recorded in a detailed outline before they ever put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard as the case may be. The most die-hard of outliners may even include sticky notes and color-coding in their process. I am both in awe of and somewhat baffled by these people. While I am a huge fan of both sticky notes and brightly colored pens, outlines are beyond me.
You see, I fall firmly into the pantser category. What's a pantser? In short, we don't outline, we fly - or in this case, write - by the seat of our pants. Outlines just don't work for me and never have, no matter how many well-intentioned teachers insisted on them. As much as I enjoyed my various Enlish/literature classes, the constant insistence on outlines brought out my rebellious streak. I never wrote an outline until after I had finished the paper. I never understood how I was supposed to know what I was going to write until I wrote it. I still don't.
|Outline? No outline? There's no one right way to write||.|
A friend and aspiring writer recently contacted me with a few writing-related questions. She was taking an online writing class sponsored by a well-known author and said that he had them doing a lot of outlines and wanted to know if I did them. I told her that I do not. Of course, he is a best-selling author and I'm not, so my advice might not carry as much weight but I think the most important thing is to find what works for you and run with it. In my case, when I begin a story I know who my main characters are, how they meet, how the story begins, and how it ends. I also have a few random scenes and pieces of dialog that fit somewhere in between - the rest comes as I write.
I enjoy seeing the story unfold as I write. My husband is still baffled as to how my characters can do things that I don't plan but it happens all the time. When I was writing Dial V for Vampire (released by Fire Star Press last year), the hero suddenly offered the heroine a job. It caught me completely off-guard and wasn't what I had planned at all. I had to take a step back and rethink my story line a bit but I think the story worked better for the change.
I could probably force myself to outline but I think my stories would suffer for it if I did. I know me and if I commit an idea to an outline, I'm probably going to make myself to stick with it even if it isn't working. Not having an outline hanging over my head gives me more flexibility. In my newest short story, It's Meow or Never, I had a hard time writing the ending. I knew how I wanted the story to end but it just wasn't working. Every time I sat down to work on it I just got bogged down. I started thinking of it as the story that refused to end. Then one day I had a flash of inspiration - bam. The end of the story fell into place like magic. Who knew a pit bull could make such a difference?
Fellow authors, are you a plotter or a pantser?
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Friday, June 30, 2017
Recent research for another story, led me to consider the infinite. I first considered our own ‘universe’, containing many billions of galaxies, each galaxy containing billions of stars, the vast majority of those the stars with planets orbiting them, with the clear and high possibility that advanced life resides there.
The question then follows … how many trillions upon trillions of sentient beings, within our own galaxy, are out there pondering the same question…right now?
And if string theory is correct, and there does exist the multiverse, an infinite number of universes floating in the endless ether, like soap bubbles, then what is the mathematical equation to estimate advanced life in that endless sea?
What, I wondered, are some common denominators that might run through those other beings? Of course, Maslow's hierarchy of needs comes to mind, they are:
1. Biological and Physiological needs - food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
2. Safety needs - protection from the elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
3. Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
4. Esteem needs - achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, and respect from others.
5. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
Number three, I think, is a commonality that will transcend time and space. If a creature is indeed sentient, having the capacity to feel, perceive, and experience subjectively. Possessing that metaphysical quality that requires a close, interpersonal relationship. Beyond the basic needs of number one, above, the sentient entity will long for the knowledge that he, or she, is loved.
I feel certain that wherever one might travel, in this or in any universe, love will be there.
A thousand years from now, if mankind does not destroy itself, humanity may likely be living on worlds far, far from the home planet. Generations will come with no recollection of Earth at all, only knowing it from legends, and bedtime stories.
Humans will encounter life alien to us. However, I think a lot of what we find, on Earth like planets, will look much as we do.
The engineering for the human being, residing on Earth, is perfect. Given conditions here, like our atmosphere, gravity, and the other creatures we share the planet with, our mental capacity, and how all these acted upon us during our evolution, well, there is little else we could have become.
We are still evolving, of course, and will likely look different a thousand years in the future, but I feel certain our physiology will remain the same.
We will share worlds with ‘people’ who, though not ‘Earthlings’ will nevertheless be advanced, intelligent, and desirous of friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance. They will possess the ability to receive and give affection. They will be quite capable of love, as are we.
As our authors and poets have written for centuries; love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is never envious nor arrogant nor prideful. Nor is love conceited.
Doubtless, the bloodline of humanity will mix with other races and spawn entirely new beings, with increased capacity, and hopefully, greater intelligence.
I have ventured to hazard the possibility in my soon to be available third book in The Unborn Galaxy series, Across a Sea of Stars.
Visit my page, Michael Gonzales, fictionist:http://www.mikegonzalesauthor.com/home.html
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Everyone loves Father’s Day, at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. All those fathers out there, be they young or old, new or great grandfathers, deserve their day in the sun. So go a little nuts; give the dad in your life something to show your appreciation; take him to a barbeque; take him fishing; take him to see Wonder Woman; whatever he likes best.
But for some of us, Father’s Day can be a little tough. Maybe we’ve lost our daddies; maybe they have lost us. Maybe it’s just not such a good time for yet another Hallmark-Greeting-Card-Spend-Your-Money-On-A-Senseless-Gift holiday.
For cat people, here is another alternative: Celebrate a Cat Holiday instead!
There is no cat holiday that falls directly on June 18th, but this month is filled with cat-centric celebrations. Unfortunately we have missed two great ones: Hug Your Cat Day was June 4th, and just a few days ago, June 16th was Lap Day. I can think of several fun and furry ways to enjoy those holidays with my clowder.
The first full week of June is Animal Rights Awareness Week, a more serious tribute to all animals and not just cats. The pursuit of animal rights is still a work in progress, but I’m happy to report it’s heading in a positive direction, with more laws protecting animals from abuse and neglect, and more advocates who will speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Tomorrow, June 19th, is one I had never heard of but will not be likely to forget: International Box Day. We all know how much cats of all shapes, sizes, and species love a good box!
June 19th is also National Garfield Day for those who follow the comic strip feline. Baking a lasagna would be a fitting way to commemorate the famous orange tabby and all the laughter he has given us over the years.
You may or may not like June 24 – Wake Up Your Human Day. It will probably be no different than any other morning when kitty rises with the birds, lands on your chest, licks your face, bites your nose, and sings the song of her people to let you know the day has begun.
June 24 is also Take Your Cat to Work Day, though it’s a Saturday so I’m not sure what to make of that. Maybe it was planned that way; maybe my source got the date wrong. Either way, I can just imagine Little napping on my computer while Tyler runs up and down the aisles, breaking everyone’s concentration with his irresistible cuteness.
The entire month of June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month (the ASPCA). I have done my part, adopting Tyler from the Oregon Humane Society on June 1st. Hey, maybe that’s something you could do for Father’s Day: Take your dad, granddad, son, brother, or ??? to your local shelter and adopt a cat today!
Check out more by Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer at:
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
I’m thrilled to announce that the second book in the Li’l Tom and the Pussyfoot Detective Bureau series, The Case of the New Year Dragon, has been accepted for publication by Tornado Alley Publications (a sister imprint of Fire Star Press)!
And speaking of new year dragons, one of the inspirations for this story was Gum Lung (pronounced "Goom Loong"), a dragon who stars in San Francisco’s New Year Parade each year.
Gum Lung is approximately 268 feet long and takes over 100 people to carry her down the parade route. She is lit up inside by thousands of tiny lights, making for quite an entrancing spectacle. The pearl of wisdom is usually carried before Gum Lung to encourage her as she winds her way through the San Francisco streets. Those observing the traditional ways believe she has magical powers and brings lucky energy.
Click here for a great YouTube video I found showing Gum Lung in all her magnificent glory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcW1vKq8Oak. See also this SFGate article for more about Gum Lung: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Celebrations-will-welcome-Year-of-the-Ox-3253637.php.
In doing research for The Case of the New Year Dragon, I attempted to find out where Gum Lung spends the rest of the year when not on display for the new year festivities. I never found out where the dragon is currently housed, but came upon an interesting story: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, writer, artist, and co-founder of City Lights independent bookstore and publishing house, discovered Gum Lung’s lair in the cellar of City Lights Bookstore in North Beach (sometime in the late 1950s). Ferlinghetti penned a poem, "The Great Chinese Dragon,” telling the tale of the dragon "creeping out of an Adler Alley cellar like a worm out of a hole sometime during the second week in February every year.” https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-great-chinese-dragon/.
When I lived in San Francisco, my husband, Tom, and I would always make a day of meandering through North Beach and Chinatown, which were always jam-packed with revelers, on the day of the Chinese New Year Parade.
We would, of course, finish the day by watching the famed parade, said to be the oldest and largest event of its kind outside of Asia.
Since Tom was born in the Year of the Dragon, we couldn’t miss the Year of the Dragon parade. Although the parade always features Gum Lung and other dragon representatives, this specific parade seemed to be more chock full of the colorful serpent than ever.
It was during this parade, way back while I was writing The Case of the Parrots Desaparecidos, that the idea struck me that Li’l Tom’s next case would be The Case of the New Year Dragon. I had no idea at the time what the story would be about, but have since worked that out. Stay tuned for The Case of the New Year Dragon in the coming year!
Angela Crider Neary is an attorney by day and writer by night. She is an avid mystery reader and especially enjoys reading novels set in interesting locales. She was inspired to write her first mystery novella, Li'l Tom and the Pussyfoot Detective Bureau: The Case of the Parrots Desaparecidos, by one of her favorite areas in San Francisco, Telegraph Hill. To learn more, visit her on Facebook and Amazon.