Friday, March 30, 2012

Aspiring Advice: The Mini-Synopsis Outline

Planner. Pantster. Plotter. All popular "p" words among writers. One of the more often posts I've read around the blogosphere is the Are You a Plotter or Pantster discussion. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's a good topic, to be sure. When I leave comments, however, I end up saying the same thing: I'm both.

There is no "one size fits all" method for crafting a story. Some authors are discovery writers. Others need a spreadsheet to keep track of the magic system. What's important is finding the method that works for you.

And this has helped my last two novels greatly.

I call it The Mini-Synopsis Outline - a three-lined paragraph summary of every chapter for as many chapters as the story needs, not to exceed three pages (depending on how long you want the novel to be).

A lot can happen in a chapter, more than can be summed in a three-lined paragraph, but it is enough to jot down the chapter's purpose, which then challenges us to complete its message in an exciting, succinct way.

(Great practice for query and synopsis writing, btw).

After the outline is completed, it goes through edits. The whole story is right there in a 2-3 page document, a tight space for reviewing plot points, making it easier to spot holes, incongruencies, and lags while reading like a mini story in and of itself. If you have a good idea on what your ending is and how each chapter leads to the next, that helps reduce the time spent at the beginning of a new chapter thinking, "how do I start this one?"

Not that there's anything wrong with that - not at all!

Keeping it limited to three-lined paragraphs also helps invite discovery and deal with the dreaded perfectionist in all of us. It's easier to scrutinize over a series of small passages than a detailed, 20 page outline of a novel.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. With this outline, I can lay a full novel foundation in a matter of hours. And when the actual writing begins, everything is subject to change. Outlines, after all, don't have to be followed to the letter, but to be used as a guide to help lead us from introduction to conclusion.

Whether you plot or pantsed, do you have any unique approaches to your writing? How has it helped you?

I'm David ... not that there's anything wrong with that!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: Crash Into Hello

You've started your story, introduced us to your main character, and things are going well, but if you don't introduce us to that sexy love interest soon, people will yawn - what better way than a collision course?

Crash Into Hello - a quick, usually action oriented way to introduce two (or more) characters to each other, often because a character is running late and is not paying attention to where they're going (with multiple variations). This trope can be used both for comedic or dramatic effect.         < in this case, Catch Into Hello.

Remember when Bella met Edward? Yeah. Potential boyfriends don't usually throw themselves into a car's path to save a girl. Well, maybe they do, but the boy rarely gets out of such a clinch without a scratch.

Crap ... I nicked a nail!

When Korben met Leeloo, he never thought the girl of his dreams would crash through the roof of his cab.

Future girls don't use doors!

Sometimes the Crash happens by other means and requires a rescue - Hello still finds a way in there.

Sometimes it's good to miss the train ...

These encounters are typically messy - papers fly, books drop, or orange juice spills all over the place.

Other examples of this trope include Sturm and Alhana from The Dragonlance Chronicles, the last minutes of The Secret of NIMH, and a scene from season 2 of Heroes, including countless examples from Anime.

Since people typically watch where they're going, this trope is not always easy to pull off effectively - but accidents do happen, as do chance encounters. Feel free to take a creative approach and crash into it!

Ever used Crash Into Hello? Has this happened to you in real life? Name other examples? Do you have $3.50?

I'm David, and who's up for a game of Mistborn?

I'll have some Atium, please!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Post: A Productive Week & Members!


Can you believe I've lived in Utah for ... what, seven years, and had never visited Park City? You know, that world famous ski resort that was once a mining town (note: we didn't take that picture - still snowy there)? We took care of that this weekend, among a few other things - like making a rack thingy so we can hang spoons and ladles against the wall above our stove.

To top it all off, I got through my three chapter goal.

Yeah. That explains why I haven't been as active in the blogosphere as I usually am, but I have two posts lined up and some micro-fiction for you later this week.

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Look alive, friends (if you write zombies, look undead), because five new members have joined us!


Welcome aboard The Cosmic Laire, you fanawesomous new members! Don't forget your cruller on the way in.

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Update: I'm hoping to get through chapter 10 of the Dragon's rewrite (in the middle of 8, so that seems doable - and I cut a lot!), and possibly paint a bedroom. Our home renovations somehow ended up on the back burner. Now's the time to pick up were we left off.

Let me just say that you guys are amazing. Thank you for reading and commenting to my advice and trope posts. It means a lot and I enjoy reading what you all have to say about them. Keep being awesome!

I'm David, and those Wonka Memes are everywhere!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Aspiring Advice: Read What You Write (For Extra Credit - Read What You Don't)

This is it, guys! The event we've all been waiting for. The dystopian novel that's taken the world by storm is now a major motion picture, topped with excellent reviews. Good news for all fans, right? But now, on the opening day of what is sure to be the first "must see" movie of the year, I have a confession to make:

(Please don't freak out)

I haven't read The Hunger Games yet ...

... Ah, crud ...

Hold on, guys - let me explain!

I was given a copy as a birthday gift. It's two books away on my reading list. I'll get to it in due time. The question still begs: what took me so long? It's not that I avoided it. By all means, the premise is amazing. And while it has sci-fi elements, it's not the genre I write. I didn't start Harry Potter until the 4th book, either.

... (I'm digging my own grave here ...)

Wait a second - there's more!

There are tons of genres (and sub genres), right? Each are wonderful - and better when well written. If we know the genre (and market) we're writing for, it only makes sense to read what is selling in that genre/market. My recent WiPs are YA fantasy with fairytale elements and magical realism. Naturally, I read most of Shannon Hale, Gail Carson Levine, Patricia C. Wrede, and Jessica Day George (and others). Doing so helped me capture the setting, chemistry, and feel for such a novel. Woven had dozens of Beta readers. No one has not liked it (yet).

Does this mean my homework has paid off? Am I off the hook for not reading the hottest book since sunburn?

 Don't get too comfortable, sonny ...

Since I write, I don't have the same luxury as a reader. I do read, don't get me wrong. Before my writing began, I read a book a week - mostly sci-fi - with a penchant for dogfights in space (funny my first trilogy turned out that way ...). You can bet when I start writing zombies, I'll read zombie. When I begin a MG series, I'll devour MG. Write what you find interesting. Read what matches.

(It can be helpful, when you query agents, to provide titles of recent novels that compare to yours)

Now, before Hunger Games, how big was the market for dystopia? George Orwell helped pioneer the genre. We have books like The Giver that helped maintain it. Now that The Hunger Games has had it's run, there are more new dystopia titles than I've ever seen in my lifetime, like Possession and Matched (wasn't too long ago when this was the case with vampires and werewolves ...).

... Pretend I didn't say that ...

Now he's knocking Twilight - Get him!

No I'm not ... okay, maybe a little ... *runs*

Next point: If we only read the kind of books we want to write, are we in danger of following trends? Not really, unless we take a popular book series, copy the formula, and present it as something different. Learning from books and maybe transcend the genre is more like it.

That's always been my goal - learn about, know my audience, and write something new (and good).

But for extra credit, we can read genres we don't write. Have you noticed my recent book reviews are not my genre? Contemporary? Urban fantasy? Not my bag, but I still liked and learned a lot from them. I didn't think for a second that I would enjoy reading YA fantasy until my wife challenged me to write one. Guess what? I love it now! And I might just be the only guy writing fairy tale-like fantasy? Is that stopping me? No way. Maybe, just maybe, I have something unique to con-tribute.

You know what? I bet you do, too. Reading leads us to books we want to write. Let's wow the world together!

We're good now ... right, guys?

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This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Time isn't always on an author's side, making regular reading tough. Choose wisely. Pick books that interest you and don't worry if you haven't read the popular favorite. It's not like its going away anytime soon.

I'm David, and guess what comes out in 360 days?

Yes. It's a fan trailer. But still!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: The Obi-Wan

You don't have to be from a long time ago or live in a galaxy far, far away to know that mentors have their place in storytelling. They come in many varieties, but few make as lasting an impression as this "Wan!"

Named after a well-known character in the Star Wars universe, The Obi-Wan is often a wise mentor, someone who travels with and trains a protagonist before getting killed or leaves the scene for good. The Obi-Wan provides information, skills, visions, or spiritual manifestations that assists the protagonist later.

The typical nature of this trope is that the character is older, calm, and about to kick the bucket anyway. They can die as soon as Act 2 in the first film or book 6 of a lengthy series - most often with dramatic effect.

"I never got that toffee every-flavor bean ..." 

Not every mentor under this definition has to die. We might be led to believe that they're dead, only to make us freak out when they make their reappearance.

 "Fly, you fools!"

"Psych, you fools!"

For the record, Obi-Wans don't have to be wizards or wield special powers. They can be ordinary folks or brilliant scientists with super (soldier) ideas.

"I just know zhe value of strength ..."

And not every Obi-Wan is a good guy, so you know.

"I've played an Obi-Wan twice!"

Examples of The Obi-Wan from the top of my head:

Kelsier from Mistborn.
The Third Hokage from Naruto.
Rufus in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Chubbs from Happy Gilmore (comedic example).
"Hot Ice" Hilda from Outlaw Star (female example).
Merlin the Wizard to King Arthur (legend example).

Can you tell which books these Obi-Wans are from?

10 points if you know their names

Examples of this trope are endless. And yet, it never gets old. Perhaps this is due to the natural order of life. We learn stuff, we pass it on to the younger generation, and then keel over. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

Have you written an Obi-Wan? What other examples can you think of? Would you like some toast?

I'm David, and ... "Remember Who You Are ..."

"Mufasa! Mufasa! Mufasa!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Writers & Red Rock, Members, and Ouch!

I sincerely hope all of you had an amazing weekend, productive and restful. How was mine? I'll tell you!

Writers of The Long Table!

It started off with an amazing get-together that Leigh Covington organized called Writers & Cheesecake. The turnout was great. I loved the opportunity to meet several blogging giants that I had yet to meet in person. Good food. Good company. Just one problem: there was no cheesecake involved. The originally planned location (The Cheesecake Factory) refused to seat us. Refused. Seems like a strange move to me. What restaurant, during tough economic times, would turn down 30 plus customers with a nice, guaranteed, gratuity charge?

(And then some - I'm a generous tipper)

I've never been. I'm sure it's a great establishment with awesome service and stellar employees, but it doesn't exactly help the PR, you know? I don't know the details either, so I'll let this one slide. Red Rock Brewery, on the other hand, were more than happy to have us!

We mingled, we ate, and mingled some more. Definitely a night worth repeating. We just might make this an annual/biannual thing. Right, Leigh? ... Leigh? ...

It was pure bliss seeing you, old and new! For those of you attending Storymakers, I'll have to see if my good friend/Italian restaurant owner in Provo will let me reserve their party room for an evening. Details soon.

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This week's new members are a living bunch, so do make the journey to their blogs - just a click away!


Welcome to The Cosmic Laire! We're happy to have you join our ever-growing starship of awesomeness!

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Now for a serious question: did anyone notice at the get-together that I was in terrible pain? Is it possible to have a Charley horse type cramp in your shoulder blade area? I've looked it up. Some results were unsettling. Either I have a medical emergency on my hands or just a bad cramp. I feel fine otherwise, but I'll look into it.

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Update - Once I get this shoulder adjusted, I'm back to the grind. I may not blog as much as I have lately (no worries - there will still be at least three a week). But, yeah. My progress on Dragon's is embarrassing. Time to step it up a notch. Aiming for three chapters this week.

How was your weekend? Has a restaurant ever turned you away before? Where'd all that snow come from?

I'm David, and the Chicken Parmesan was delovely!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mark Koopmans' "Got Green" Bloghop: Cassidy's Deal with Desmond O'Neil

Can I say it? Best bloghop idea ever?

I have a busy weekend ahead of me, so I'll post early. And a Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all. It wasn't until I was ten that I understood how much of an Irish heritage I have, with ancestors who were led to America because of The Great Famine (potato famine). My family was late in knowing this, so we never had any traditions, really.

But I have to hold up my colors somehow. After all, how else do you think I got "Powers" for a middle name?

And don't even think of pinching me. My eyes are green. That gives me universal pinching immunity, right?

So I've prepared an entirely made up story. Imagine you're in a cozy pub with a pint of whatever "ales" you and hear this tale of a man who fell in love ...

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Cassidy's Deal with Desmond O'Neil

If you be asking a man why he's search'n for a leprechaun, he’ll often say he’s after their heaping pot o’gold. Not ol’Desmond O’Neil. He gone search’n for a leprechaun all right, but not for coin or its cauldron. It’s the heart of a leprechaun that he'd been after.

Cassidy—that’s what Desmond overheard with his last pint in this very pub. He saw her once, picking clovers on the edge of his farm. Young, fair, red curly hair—so vibrant, in fact, it be like her head was on fire!

I’m seeing your incredulous faces, now. “What business has a man have with giving his beating heart to a leprechaun?” you ask? Well … that’s where many get their stories crossed. If you’re think'n Leprechauns are men in green who gallivant with rhyming schemes, you best be pulling your head out of Hallmark cards and know that they’re not being much difference from us.

But different enough …

So Desmond goes out search’n one spring afternoon and finds the lass with a basket of picked clovers—four leafed, to be sure. And her smile? Let’s say it went to melt Desmond’s heart like butter.

“I be loving you, Cassidy,” he told her. “Can’t we be together?”

She stared at him with the greenest eyes you’d ever saw, but with a smile that faded fast. “No man ever a leprechaun been faithful,” she answered him, “unless ye prove your heart for mine.”

She made him deal: return each year with no other girl in his heart. Fifty years he'd done this. Cassidy? She never aged. Then, on his final spring morn, old and feeble with the banshee hanging over his shoulder, Desmond gone off to see the lass once more before he becoming one with the earth.

That’s the last we’d seen of ol'Desmond O’Neil. Some say he died. Not I ... An immortal’s love can make one forever young. It wouldn’t surprise me if folks be trying to catch Desmond for his pot o’gold, now ...

(333 words)

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My attempt at the dialect might be completely off, so no offense intended. If you're interested in joining the hop, there's still time! Check out the details here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy some potatoes and corned beef. Tradition, to be sure!

I'm David, and ye best be wear'n green!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Random Sauce: The Lucky 7 Meme!

Guess what? I got tagged - three times! Cherie, C. M. Brown, and Cassie Mae are responsible (all names start with a C ... you know what I think of that? Cool!). And so, without further (or much) ado, here are the rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current ms.

2. Go to line 7.

3. Copy down the next 7 lines/sentences, and post them as they're written. No cheating.

4. Tag 7 other victims, er, authors.

My WiP (The Dragon's Heart) page 77 isn't ready, and I'm, uh, not allowed to share anything from my current MS (Woven), so here's a snapshot of GroundShaker, my first stab at epic (door-stopper) fantasy.

*     *     *

He knelt beside the stranger and held the blade against the man’s throat.

“What are you doing?” Old Father asked.

“It’s him!” Tears formed in Jesin’s eyes. “He's the one who killed her!”

Uric stepped back, his face paling. “Her who?”

“Breathe, Jesin,” Old Father invited. “Put down the knife. You do not know if this man is responsible for your sister’s death as much as I. We can never know unless we ask. Let us take him to your home and tend to him, as well as your father. He may be willing to talk, then.”

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Now, here are the lucky 7 recipients!


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I'm David, and beware the Ides of March!

(Happy "Back-Stabbing" Day ...)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Read This: Dies Irae: A Requiem Novella

Mikayel lives by one rule—obey the orders of the angelic Council at all costs. That is, until he and his friends, Azza and Demi, are sent to Earth. Assigned as Watchers while they await their decision of which angelic order to serve, the three assume the bodies of teenagers and experience life as human.

The sensations are overwhelming as the angels experience a host of human emotions—rage, terror, love—and come ever closer to breaking one of the unbreakable rules—never fall in love ... 

(From Goodreads)

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A while back, I won this eBook courtesy of an awesome giveaway by Elana Johnson (and finally got around to reading it). I must say, this was a fine read by Christine Fonseca. And since it's a novella, a rather quick read (worthy of half an afternoon). I admit that the first page didn't sell me so much, but the rest of it made my sticking with it pay off. I found her engaging sentence structure most appealing, and her take on angels rather intriguing. It reminded me of City of Angels, only cooler.

If you're on the hunt for a little romance mixed with a neat urban fantasy, this book is worth your while.

You can find this eBook here.

Angela Brown is actually hosting Christine Fonseca this week with her latest release, Lacrimosa. Check it!

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I'm David, and who's up for Angel Food Cake? 

I'll have mine with berries!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: The Fool

No one likes incompetent characters, right? We like them to be smart, to figure things out without being told. Thing is, not everyone has a glowing IQ - which isn't a bad thing. It might make for a great story!

The Fool - A character who seems oblivious (or is) to everything that happens around him, but manages to complete the journey, win the heart of the maiden, or solve the crime with dumb luck.

They are typically ignorant of the world's evils and are naturally good hearted. Karma abounds with them.

The plot of Forrest Gump (pictured above) pretty much revolves around this definition. Lovable, isn't he?

The Fool is a timeless trope, but a difficult one to pull off. The Golden Goose is the earliest example I can think of. The guy pretty much has it made, and yet this story has withstood the test of time and has been retold more times than can be counted. Not bad ... for a "Simpleton."

Got a crime to solve? No problem! Even a clueless individual can be lucky enough to join the police force (and become an inspector). Rest assured, they'll find the thief, even if their lead turns out to be A Shot In the Dark.

Some Fools may come across as obnoxious while others may surprise us by helping to save the day ...

They could be anywhere in the world, be it stuck on a deserted island or wandering the plains of Russia.

The Fool can play a part of almost any story, across culture, race, and/or gender. Yes, the examples above are guys, but there are girl examples too, like Mihoshi from the Tenchi universe. They're just harder to find.

And in the end, we end up loving them anyway.

What other Fools can you think of? Do you have one in your story? Do you prefer salmon or trout?

I'm David, and, you know ... for kids!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Post #300, Interview, Fair, and Members!

It's about to get epic in here ...

Okay, guys. This is going to be one loaded post and I have about five minutes to do it. So let's do this!

1: This is my 300th post (merits thrown confetti)!

2: The awesome Laura Barnes interviewed me over the weekend. If you missed it, check it out here!

3: The Publisher's Fair was great. I got to meet folks from Ceder Fort, TM Publishing, Deseret Book, and JollyFishPress (who pulled me in for a picture).

 Chill'n with Team Jolly Fish!

 4: Here's the New Member Shout-Out for the week (if your name is not linked, I could not find your blog)!

Lisa Otto

Thanks for joining The Cosmic Laire. Welcome aboard!

5: The blog's header is new, but not official. We're working on making the site better. Wish us luck!

6: I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for your continuous support, copious comments, and contagious enthusiasm. You make me want to be a better writer (and person) every day. Thank you!

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Update: Remember that goal I had last week? Ha! Only got two chapters in before life decided otherwise. It looks to be a repeat of last week for this week, so I'll do what I can without making promises. Looking forward to getting this blog back to its normal routine this week, participating in Mark Koopmans "Got Green?" Bloghop, and hanging with local peeps at the first ever Writers and Cheesecake event. How's that for a big week?

I'm David, and look at what I got in the mail!

I'mma read this now ...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Aspiring Advice: Social Media Etiquette

More now than ever, I enjoy interacting with others. I may be shy in some ways and might be the quiet one in the group, but that doesn't mean I'm not listening or paying attention. With social media, we can stay in touch longer and more often regardless of where we are in the world.

Should we act any different online than in person?

While looking into the opinions of others, be it political issues or comic books, I am astounded by the rudeness, ad nauseum, and straight up hate that is posted. Who goes up to a complete stranger on the street and talks to them like this? Thing is, most of these comments are made by aliases. This allows people the luxury to spout out their opinion in the safe confines of their homes without compromising their personal identity.

By all means, we need opinions - some are downright funny, but the rude ones, I can't take seriously.

How does this apply to us writers?

A while back I posted about Your Name Is Your Brand. Once we've established our brand, it's our job to carry it and let it be seen. Plenty have gone the route of pen names, but many writers imagine their own names on their covers. This places us in a unique situation for our time - striving for proper etiquette on and offline.
The one thing I see most often in the blogosphere is differing opinions on various writing topics and all that that implies (which I wholeheartedly embrace). The great thing about people is that we don't all agree. This leaves room for discussion. How we disagree, however, makes all the difference.

If we want to commit career suicide, we must be jerks. We must claim to have all the right answers. We must prove how great our books are to someone who gives us a negative review. We must use our blogs to rant about someone that we disagree with. We must show how omnipotent we are when we leave comments. We must expose the evils of our ex-agent/publisher to all. Etc.

(For good's sake, please don't do any of the above)

Here's how I see it: when it comes to opinion, there is no right answer. We might disagree with someone, but if it works for them, why are we bent out of shape about it? Bruised ego? Something we hold true to our heart isn't validated? Sometimes it's best to let people stick with their guns, let them believe in what works for them, or even let them make mistakes. It may not work for us, but we might find their opinion suits us better later on - and visa versa!

In short, avoid saying or doing anything that will compromise our brand. Be nice and mean it. We leave footprints with every post, tweet, and comment. It takes only one to sabotage our brand forever.

And to a further extent, us as people.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. My stance is, as writers, we ought to be what is best for our brand (us). That means relaxing a little and not taking the offensive. We could smile and be genuine about it. If we come across as abrasive, quick to be disagreeable, or not have an open mind, will we sell any books?

Have you received comments/reviews that rubbed you the wrong way? How have you dealt with them?

I'm David, and we're going to "borrow" something ...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Fourth Platform-Building Campaign: The Second Challenge: Cost Of Crossing

Cost of Crossing

Sereh leaned against a rusted support, her hair sopping wet as she held Bengi in her arms. The frigid morning air showed his breath. Good, she thought. He’s alive.

Aside from the bump on his head and the cut on his leg, he would be fine. After a short rest, they would be on their way. They finally made it across the river.

No one ever made it across the river.

“We did it, Bengi,” Sereh panted. “We’re free.”

She glanced at the broken bridge where they jumped, then looked at the opposite shore where they had spent their young lives. No more harvesting. No more blood draws. Sereh would not let them take what was not theirs, or rob her of the love that they could not feel.

Bengi stopped breathing. His chest ceased to rise.

Sereh leaned close to his mouth. Nothing.

“No,” she whispered. “Bengi?” She shook him. “Bengi!”

It was true—the scarecrow story that kept everyone from leaving the compound. They did not account for death. Like venom, the toxic waters had entered his bloodstream. And she had swallowed some.

Sereh held Bengi, cried, and waited. Even this was better than what they left behind.

- 200 words
- A genre that is not my own: Dystopia 
- This entry is open for public critiquing

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Do to time constraints, I was not able to invest as much time as I would normally like to use all of the challenge prompts. For the full prompts, click this link. There's also many writers participating that's worth reading.

I'm David, and this is a sweet looking water pear!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Callie Leuck Has Found My Writing Nook!


Instead of a Tuesday Trope this week, I'd like you all to meet Callie, an awesomely outspoken blogger with a weekly series about writers and their writing space. I don't know why a raven is like a writing desk, but I know what my desk looks like. Now you can too.

She's guesting me today, so go and say hello!

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In other news (and in honor of March), inkPageant has launched a new giveaway - a Three Chapter Critique, courtesy of Jolly Fish Press. This time, there is no post limit. Submit as much as you'd like. For an extra bonus entry, you can Like our Facebook page and/or follow our Twitter. Come join the parade, fellow writers!

(And if you'd like to blog about it, we won't stop you)

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I'm David - what does your writing space look like?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Post: A Successful Birthday Surprise Fail

So I bought a couch last week - a birthday gift for my wife. She's eyed this particular model for a while (even bought the cover she wanted months ago), so it was only a matter of saving up to get it. Birthdays are a good excuse to splurge for the one you love, right?

The Mission: Infiltrate the local IKEA store, acquire and purchase said couch, and bring it home without the Mrs. knowing about it. Sounds simple enough, right? And you know a cinnamon roll or two will be part of the deal. So I called up her dad (cause he has the giant car for the job) and made arrangements. The day of the operation, he calls me and asks me to help lift "something heavy."

That's when I got ready, grabbed a ski mask, and decided to leave mask at home. Probably wouldn't go well, wearing one of those in a big furniture store on a busy Saturday (blasted stereotypes ...). Anyway, we hit the road, found the couch, bought it (and cinnamon rolls), and packed it in the back. Easy. Now for the hard part.

Got it home. I check out the scene. It's nap time. The kid's door is closed. So is our room. The place is quiet. Perfect. I go outside, then lift the big box out of the SUV, only to hear, "hey, guys ... what is that? It's huge!"

Oops ...

She got her present early, and was very happy about it, I might add. And it's comfy. But I did learn a valuable lesson: closed doors doesn't mean they're asleep.

Sounds like a good tagline for a creepy novel, huh?

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Here's this week's latest members to The Cosmic Laire. Thank you for joining the site! Here's a Shout-Out to your awesomeness. Please go check'em out, ya'll!

Danika Dinsmore

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Update: Now that unforeseen responsibilities are taken care of, I can finally get back to the grind unhindered. This includes a serious jump on The Dragon's Heart - a chapter, read and revised, each day this week. Hold me to it. I would like to catch up, and maybe get ahead.

I'm also attending a Publisher's Fair this Wednesday. It might be worth your time to check it out if you're in the area and not doing anything that afternoon.

I'm David, and we're going to miss you, Dale ...

 And so will your RV ...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Aspiring Advice: Mythbusting The Muse

You know that show on the Discovery Channel, where two guys and a crew look into myths and urban legends, only to try and prove or disprove them? How much fun would it be crashing cars and blowing up toilets? Sounds like every demolition and pyro's dream job. But did you know there are myths about writing? You bet!

A couple weekends ago, my wife and I had the chance to finally meet one of our favorite authors (no, we did not have the tallest stack of books for her to sign ...).

I speak of Shannon Hale, author of Princess Academy, Goosegirl, Austenland, etc (she's also the same author that some readers have compared my writings to).


Before the signing, Shannon spoke to all us fans and had a Q&A. One question was asked, "how do you overcome writer's block?" The answer surprised me, yet I nodded in agreement right away. The general gist was this:

"There's no such thing as writer's block. There's no such thing as a muse. They're myths in the writing world."

She then talked about motivation and discipline, points that are worth expounding on. Is there such a thing as a muse? What is a muse? Some magical, external force that sends inspiration our way? Or doesn't, leaving us frustrated? The truth is, I never believed in such an entity. It's like being dependent on something before I can write, or an excuse for when I'm not writing.

In psychology, this is known as displacement, a kind of defense mechanism that justifies or rationalizes our lacking onto something/someone else. The more we rely on this excuse, the easier it is to justify not writing our 1000 words or editing our chapter for the day. Our productivity sways the longer this is maintained.

It's a lot like magical thinking or superstition, really.

Blame the universe or the muse all we want, but the reason that book isn't finished or edited lies on us.

Sure, life gets in the way at times, and might drain away our motivation - if we allow it. When discouragement rears it's ugly head, I imagine it getting all in my face, and then I push it aside. It's quite the spectacle.

What I imagine I'm doing

But it doesn't end there. Motivation is easy to come by, and we can tap into that well of awesomeness that's brimming to burst. For me, all it takes is three steps:

 - Take a breath and clear your mind.

 - Give yourself a manageable goal (X words).

 - Resist distraction and complete that goal!

There might be an urge to raid the kitchen, play a game, or watch some TV, but that can wait. They are rewards for accomplishing your goal. Focus and don't cave.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. If your explanation for inspiration is an invisible muse, no one is going to change your mind. If writer's block is walling you from pressing on, no one can smash it for you. Instead of relying on a muse, think of yourself as a receiver. The story exists in the grand cosmos. Through you, the story can be told. Align yourself and write on!

Er ... that's not what I meant ...

What do you guys think? Are muses a myth or fact? Is writer's block a myth or fact? Do you chew gum?

I'm David, and wow! That Hugo movie was amazing!

Now go nail that role as Ender, kid!