Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 5, 2012

Another light Sunday, so before I begin, I want to thank everyone who’s decided to follow the blog over the past few weeks. I’m glad you’re here and hope you’re enjoying what we’re putting up for you. Debrah will be posting more flash fiction and we have a couple other new or returning writers who should be posting material soon, too.

Today’s two posts both have to do with money–ironic, perhaps, on a Sunday, a day that used to be one on which commerce was forbidden. In any case, both pieces are also funny.

  • We’ll start in The Kill Zone, where James Scott Bell (@jamesscottbell) interviews himself–I MEAN, K. Bennett, author of the Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law series–who claims Writing for Money is a Good Thing. Sure can’t argue with that. Or the point that the ending of a book doesn’t sell that book, but the next one. Or it doesn’t. Hmmm.
  • The second post is from Irish writer Catherine Ryan Howard (@cathryanhoward), writing on Catherine, Caffeinated (via Joel Friedlander’s (@JFbookman) blog), about Low E-book Pricing: The Compensation Problem. The post has to do with what the right price for an e-book is and what authors should be thinking about as they set that price. I particularly like this statement: “But the point is that the money you earn from your writing is not a question of how much you make from individual sales of your work. It’s about how much that work makes in the long run, over time.” Long-term thinking. What a concept!

That’s all for tonight. A bit over two hours to go before NASA’s Curiosity rover lands–one way or another–on Mars. Fingers crossed for a successful landing!

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 4, 2012

Must be Saturday–not a lot to include today. Good thing, as I blog between the raindrops–and lightning strikes. And everything is light-hearted today.

  • Yesterday I mentioned Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@kriswrites) and Dean Wesley Smith’s (@deanwesleysmith) video promoting their new Fiction River anthology series. If you didn’t want to go to the Kickstarter web site, Kris has posted the video on her own site–here.
  • Joe Hartlaub wonders Which Book to Read–or Write–Next? on The Kill Zone, and introduces us to a new web site called Whichbook, which uses an interesting set of mood-related questions to help suggest books you might be interested in.
  • And finally, Kathy Ridpath Ohi (@inkyelbows) shares a few of her comic strips, titled Will Write for Chocolate, on Writer Unboxed.

That’s it. Have a great weekend.

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, August 3, 2012

Some funny stuff and some serious stuff today. Let’s get the serious stuff out of the way first, shall we? (Kinda like that “eat your peas and you’ll get dessert” thing.)

  • The most serious piece is also something of good news: Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) writes on Writer Beware that Literary Agent Scams [are] Still Around, But On the Wane. Independent publishing is the major reason for this, with fewer opportunities for sleazy agents or pseudo-agents to sucker naive new authors. But there are still scams out there.
  • A couple pieces come via Nathan Bransford’s (@NathanBransford) blog:
    • Michael Shatzkin (@MikeShatzkin) writes on The Shatzkin Files that Just because the author does a lot of marketing doesn’t mean the publisher can’t help. His argument is that social media advertising/tweeting/whatever-ing by the author is NOT going to be enough to get substantial sales, so it’s still in the publisher’s interest to do some marketing work, too. Now, whether publishers are listening…that’s another story.
    • But, along that same vein, the Ted Weinstein Literary Management (@twliterary) is offering a FREE “buy this book” widget for installation on an author’s web site or blog. NOTE: you will need to know how to insert HTML and JavaScript code into the source code for the page you want the widget to appear on. The code for the widget is already written, although you’ll have to provide some technical details, like your Amazon “affiliate ID.” With the widget installed, site visitors will have one place from which they can order the author’s books, rather than having to run through multiple links.
  • Still on the topic of marketing, Jordyn Redwood (@JordynRedwood) continues her series on Marketing Your Debut Novel on WordServe Water Cooler with a post on Guest Blogging and Guest Hosting. Jordyn discusses why she asked certain writers to guest post on her blog and why she sought out the blogs she did to guest post on. She also kindly provides links to the previous three articles.
  • One last serious piece: Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) brings the next-to-last series in her lessons learned at ThrillerFest. This one is: Writing Techniques and Devices Should Serve the Story. Seems obvious, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of being too clever or too technique-y and put things into a story that don’t make it stronger, and in fact pop the reader out of what John Gardner calls “the narrative dream.” This can even include humor, properly done, to offset or relieve pathos…
  • …which is my transition to today’s funny pieces. First up is Kathryn Lilley’s (@kathrynelilley) hilarious but oh-so-true piece on The Kill Zone, Words We Love Way Too Much. If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ll be nodding your head in been-there-done-that agreement.
  • And finally is Colson Whitehead’s (@colsonwhitehead) New York Times Sunday Book Review article, How to Write, in which he lists his 11 (very tongue-in-cheek) rules for writing. This piece also comes via Nathan Bransford, and like Nathan, my favorite is #8. What is it? I’m sorry, it’s a secret I can’t reveal here. You’ll have to go read the article to find out. 😉

Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 18, 2012

Whoa! My little corner has been busy the last 24 hours, with lots of terrific stuff posted. Heavy stuff, light stuff, funny stuff, serious stuff; it’s all there. So, how to organize it all? Oh, let’s see…let’s start with business stuff.

  • What to do with those old paper and electronic files we’ve all been storing for years and years and years and… is something we tell ourselves we’ll get around to “one day.” Yeah, right. Well, Nancy J. Cohen (@nancyjcohen) offers 6 Tips for File Management on The Kill Zone that will not only help you tame the monster, but also give you the reason you need to finally get started.
  • Gabriella Pereira (@DIYMFA) discusses Branding for Authors. Not only does she define what “branding” means for writers, even unpublished ones (hint: it does NOT have to do with being poked in the side with a hot piece of iron, nor does it have to feel that way), she even offers a radical-to-some suggestion regarding social media: you don’t have to be everywhere all the time.
  • Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) answers the question many of her clients ask: What’s Happening With My Publisher Contract? She then goes on to explain what she’s thinking about as she’s reviewing and negotiating a contract, and why. Good stuff to know.
  • Matt Setter (@maltblue) discusses on @ProBlogger How Privacy Breach Notification Laws Affect Your Blog. If you have a blog or web site and do e-commerce on it, this is information you should know. This topic might seem scary–and it does deal with something that might be a problem–so all the more reason to get smart about it.

Now for a couple pieces on craft:

  • Rebecca L Boschee’s (@becca_leone) What Writing Fiction Taught Me About Human Nature on WordServe Water Cooler at first didn’t seem to offer anything new on heroes and villain, but then she got to the “backstory wound,” that personal failure that keeps both heroes and villains from achieving their goals, at least until they change and overcome/heal the wound. That’s a useful take on that deep character flaw.
  • On a less serious note, Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) describes Why Your Hero Needs a Yappy Sidekick on her WORDplay blog. “Yappy” doesn’t need to be annoying-little-dog yappy, but the sidekick, Kim says, gives us both an opportunity to gather insights into the hero we might not otherwise have and at the same time introduce a new source of tension and conflict. Clever! And I’m glad to see that I did this in my WIP. Yay!

Finally, a couple pieces on literature and culture:

  • Kevin Kelly’s (@kevin2kelly) Robot, Child of God on The Technium ponders the future and our expanding definitions of intelligence and what that might mean…and puts all that into his new graphic novel The Silver Cord, which is available as a free download here for just another day or two.

Wow! A banner day, eh?

Horse Laugh

True love, we are told, can withstand anything, barring necrophilia, disappearance and serial infidelity. My first venture into the slippery arena of amor, however, ended in a puddle of aromatic foam.

Cloudcroft, NM, is a mountain community whose revenue source at the time of this story, was largely from skiing and winter games. My family, dad Ken, mom Muriel, sister Shirley and I, were on our way to Hobbs, also in NM, to begin a new life. Mom suffered from respiratory problems and her doctor recommended she move to a dry desert locale and away from Iowa’s winters.

We arrived in Cloudcroft after supper one evening in early mid-September and took a room in a cheap motel. Two rooms down another family was carrying their suitcases into their room. I was outside staying out of the way while my parents set up a sleeping arrangement on the floor for my sister and me, when a girl about my age emerged from her room two down. From inside her mother’s voice counseled, “Don’t go too far, Millie.”

“Okay, mom,” the girl answered.

Millie had reddish-blond hair whose attractive tint captured my attention, and like me seemed at loose ends. Her gaze turned ninety degrees and spotted me. She walked toward me with a kind of natural boldness, then stopped by a 4×4 post supporting the overhang. “Hi,” she said leaning against the post

“Hi,” I answered. She was close enough for me to see that she had light blue eyes and a pale skin dotted with apricot freckles.

She regarded me, then said, “I’m Millie. What’s your name?”

After I answered, she regarded me some more, gnawing on her lower lip. Then she cast a glance back at the door to her room and said, “Let’s go for a walk.”

She had already left the post and started away from the row of connected rooms, so I gigged myself into action. As I caught up with her she stuck out her hand. It felt strange to take hold of her hand and walk along as if we were old friends. I began to feel some odd stirrings inside. It occurred to me that maybe we were going somewhere where we couldn’t be seen, and that maybe Milly had something in mind, like maybe messing around.

We were heading toward a large fenced-in pasture in which three horses were foraging. Now about forty yards from the motel, she stopped next to a mare that was cropping at grass clumps about ten feet inside the fence.

“I just love horses,” said Millie dreamily. “Don’t you?

“Yeah, I like horses. I like to draw ‘em.”

She apparently wasn’t impressed by this. “Did you ever ride on one?”

“No, I never did. Did you?”

She shook her head. “I hope to soon. When we visit my uncle’s ranch in California.

She reached towards the mare, who stopped cropping grass and raised her head. A big black stallion that had been nosing for grass some fifty feet away in the center of the pasture saw this and must have concluded that treats were being handed out because he came on a trot directly toward us. He stopped in front of us about five feet from the fence and studied Millie’s hands. Seeing that the mare hadn’t taken anything, he gave a snort and shook his massive head. My head barely came to the lower part of his mane. I was impressed by his size and the suggestion of powerful grace as he stood looking at the ground some feet away as if musing.

“Oh,” Millie said rapturously. “Isn’t he beautiful? Oh, he’s so gorgeous, so noble looking. I wish I had a camera.”

Then time and volition seemed suspended. Before our softened gazes a purplish-black organ the diameter of a baseball bat began to slide from the stallion’s penile sheath, growing close to two feet in length. A tiny squawk issued from Millie’s lips. She edged away from the fence. From the nodding tip of the stallion’s penis shot a garden hose stream of urine that spattered against the churned up soil of the corral behind his front hooves and quickly formed a puddle the color of , well, urine.

Between the spatter noisily lashing the widening pool into crenellated spires of foam rising from its perimeter, much like egg whites beaten until the frothy stuff stood, romance was sending out tendrils of hopeful longing, and then blunt reality grinned in the form of the stallion’s preposterously enormous dick sticking out so far as to sweep our wispy sentiments into oblivion.

The forceful hiss of urine plunging into the foaming pool, now glinting an unwholesome off-greenish tinge, must have gone on for twenty seconds or more, its rank, hot steamy aroma enveloping us in an invisible cloud. Several feet away from me, Millie made an “Ulkk-k,” sound.

I had been so distracted by this engrossing event that I had forgotten about Millie. Glancing over, I saw that she stood back  from the fence at a lean. I watched as she panted a few times and seemed to be struggling to swallow. My attention drawn back to the stallion, I was wondering where that lengthy organ reposed between waterings when Millie said, “I think my mama’s calling me. I better go.”

I watched her  jog and walk by turns toward the motel. I shrugged, somewhat disappointed by her faintheartedness, then turned my attention to the horse reeling his member splotched with pink back inside his abdomen. He had bitched up what was to have been my first taste of a girl’s lips. I studied him wondering if his timing at uncoiling his colossal penis had been deliberate. Maybe he was getting even with us for teasing him with nonexistent treats. His upper lips folded back revealing his big uneven teeth. Then he whinnied, clearly laughing at me.

Actually that didn’t happen. What did happen was that Millie and I almost met the next morning, but when she saw us leaving our room she kept to the far side of  their car so she wouldn’t have to exchange glances with one who had seen her at a moment of great personal embarrassment.

Offended that I no longer met her criteria for notice, I whinnied.

Well, actually that didn’t happen either.

First Time at Carboholics Anonymous

Moderator:  “Good evening and welcome to all of you. Tonight’s program is a talk on addictive personality and before we get into our program, I’d like to welcome a new member into our support group. This is Trev. Trev, would you please stand up and introduce yourself.”

Trev:  “Hello. Ahh, my name is Trev . . . and I’m a . . . ahh . . . I’m  a carboholic.”

Chorus of voices:  “We hear you, Trev. We know your suffering and support you.”

Trev: “Well, ah, thank you. Umhum. (Shakes head.) I can’t believe I’m doing this. If my wife hadn’t got your number from your TV ads . . . And then she placed an emergency call with your flying  Carbo–what you call it?–Intervention Squad; She was taking a chance, but I know she only wants to save our marriage, so I promised I’d give it a shot . . .  Anyway, I stand before you reduced to this by . . .  by . . . a goddamn creampuff.”

Moderator, when the chorus of commiseration has abated:  “Now, Trev, you mustn’t be hard on yourself. We all know what it is to suffer an addiction for sweets. Even Friederich Nietzche, whose manly philosophy of courageous sacrifice and self-denial set forth in Man and Superman found it impossible to pass a bakery without dashing inside.  Why don’t you go on, share some more with us so we can get to know you a little better.”

Trev:  “Okay. (Long pause.) Well, I don’t have a problem with bagels, even with cream cheese on them. And I can skip candy bars. But . . . a cookie, a crisp, crunchy cookie, or anything that oozes vanilla cream robs me of any volition or resistance that I have . . . I’ve got to have that squirmy piece of delectable ooze . . . It’s almost a sexual thing . . . the power a Napoleon has, lying there in puffy, chocolate-covered innocence . . . what it does is tap into your sexual appetites . . . you get a figurative lingual erection for this little cake lying there waiting to be penetrated, its insides all mushy and liquefied and ready for invasion . . . and it’s all you can do to keep from ramming your tongue in that inviting little end whose tiny opening advertises the sweet runny love goo waiting for your assault. You know what I mean?”

A chorus of gasps  and throat-clearings.  

Trev:  “But you manage to contain yourself, and you pay for a half-dozen of these wanton little cakelets and you walk outside looking to passersby for all the world as normal as you please. But halfway down the block you can’t hold back any longer and you duck in an alley and plunge behind a dumpster and there . . . (swallows, pants wearily) . . . you take one from your package and you rip the cellophane covering off and ram your greedy thrusting tongue—”

Moderator: “Okay, Trev, we definitely understand what you’re going through. At this point, however, I think we need to take a short break for saltine crackers and diet colas. Allright, everyone? Okay, meet back here in fifteen.”

A Dream of Spiders

It was a warm afternoon in sixth grade Geography class at Spuntford Heights Grade School in Chulaska, SD. The classroom was stifling, the air close and stuffy. The kids, like sullen cons waiting to be sprung from solitary, languished in their hard wooden seats. Spring filled the air with inviting scents, putting Charlie Kinslow into a somnolent doze. The blackboard blurred. His head dipped; his breathing slowed. . . .

. . . before his trudging feet lay a mountain pass through which he could see a green and yellow tree-lined meadow that beckoned to his ravaged spirit. To reach it he had to cross a chasm. While feeling his way across a fallen tree bridging the chasm and looking downward to assure his footing, he blundered into what seemed at first a giant net. He pulled back but the net came with him; it was stuck to his face and clothing as if it had bonded glue-like against him. Recognition dawned instantly. In a panic he sought to pull his arms free from the sticky webbing and realized it was hopeless and his agitation was being transmitted like Morse code to the creator of this glutinous immensity that held him fast.

Terror enveloped him as the web’s shaking vibrations foretold the immanent arrival of its rapacious maker. He tried to look upwards but his head was stck. A dry, feral stink enveloped him, and before he could even recoil cold pincers pierced his flesh and held him firmly while two enormous fangs sank into his chest, pumping jets of caustic venom into him by the quart. In passive shock he felt his insides emulsify and his limbs grew cold and unresponsive. Clawlets on two of the spider’s free legs began turning him along his perpendicular axis to enwrap him in silk.

Hyperventilating with fear, Charlie Kinslow began moaning and panting rapidly and twisting stiffly in his seat in an effort to find release from this day-mare to the wonderment of his nearby classmates. Before he was entirely cocooned he let out a despairing wail of terror, and awoke in a sweat, gasping for breath.

Panting shallowly, he saw that the entire classroom was turned and regarding him with a mixture of curiosity and amusement. The teacher, Mr. Sagner, as well. Charlie shook his head and sagged in relief.

Mr. Sagner handled the interruption smoothly, allowing Charlie to pant his way to relative normalcy before inviting him to share the events that restored him to consciousness. Embarrassed at first, he recounted the entire dream with a few embellishments and had the room laughing hysterically by the time he was finished. The teacher was similarly amused and had him go out in the hallway and splash cold water on his face. It was the most terrifying dream he’d ever had, more real and graphic than anything he’d ever experienced while conscious.

That night he stayed up late, waiting for exhaustion before risking a slide into unconsciousness once again.