Saturday, December 26, 2020

Good Riddance to 2020. Holiday Traditions to Ring in the New Year.

 Well, it’s been a helluva year. I don’t know about you, but between COVID-19, elections, hurricanes, wildfires, shootings, and everything else, I’m done with 2020. I won’t miss it or get nostalgic. I don’t want the like ever to appear again. To make sure of that, I’m going to follow a raft of New Year’s traditions to guarantee a healthy, happy, and not horrible 2021.

In Burma, splashing water on someone is considered good luck, so I’ll start the day by waking my husband by throwing a pail of water on him. He'll probably complain he’s not Burmese, but tough. He needs to suck it up. The other option is to smack him on the head with an onion which is considered good luck in Greece. I haven’t decided yet. I think I’ll keep it a surprise. Perhaps, I’ll do both.

Residents of Johannesburg, South Africa throw appliances out the window. No mention is made whether they call out a warning to neighbors walking by first. In Denmark the tradition is to smash dishes on your neighbor’s doorstep. I have the kind of neighbors that might take issue (especially if it’s a dish I borrowed.) However, I’ll simply remind them smashed china is better than having a smart TV heaved at your head. Danes apparently also jump off chairs. What do they put in the water in Denmark?

In Italy, wearing red underwear is lucky. I don’t have any red underwear, but I do have a bunch of red Christmas napkins and I’m pretty good at origami. In Argentina, the tradition is pink underwear, so I could give my napkins a good dose of bleach first. Thanks to COVID-19, bleach is plentiful. Bolivians wear yellow underwear. I happen to have a pair, so I believe I’ll wear all three for triple the good fortune. Perhaps, on my head in Walmart as a morale booster to others. Nothing says Happy New Year better than looking like a lunatic on a shopping spree.

Peruvians celebrate with the Takanakuy festival which is nothing more than one big fist fight and is supposed to wipe the slate clean for the next year. Although I suppose if I go around the neighborhood belting people, they’re likely to complain and I’ve already broken their china.

New Year’s often involves visitors. In Scotland the first person over the threshold is supposed to bring luck and the luckiest visitor is a dark man with coal. I’ve emailed Idris Elba several times with an invitation and even offered to supply the coal. I finally received a reply from his attorney threatening legal action if I didn’t back off, but I’m sure if I explain one more time, he’ll be here.

To top off the day, I’ll serve a sumptuous feast of traditional lucky foods; black eyes peas (American South) served on top of pickled herring (Poland) served on top of marzipan (Austria) served on top of tamales (Mexico) and all covered with soba noodles (Japan). Anyone who can survive that dinner should be able to meet 2021 head on, if they don’t end up in the hospital with gastritis.

Happy New Year.



Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Naughty List is Now a Series. Book 1 Free on Amazon. Book 2 on Sale.

 The Naughty List is now a series.

Free November 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Judgment Day (Book 2) is on sale for $2.50


Murder, mystical artifacts, an invisible demon with anger management issues, and an overbearing cupid—not what Rosalie Thatcher wished for on her Christmas list.


The holidays had always been a magical time for Rosalie, but not this year. Her new manager at Penrose’s Department Store is determined to make this season the most profitable in the store’s history, even if it sucks the life out of every employee. Introducing arbitrary rules and stealing the affections of the cute temp Santa were bad enough, but forcing Rosalie into the stupid elf hat was the worst. The worst, that is, until she meets a real E.L.F. (Elemental Life Form) named David and gets lassoed into a desperate hunt for the stolen Naughty and Nice List. Now all Rosalie and David must do is dodge a murderous invisible demon and recover the missing artifact before hellhounds track them down.  The couple race against time for without the magical guidance of the Naughty and Nice List, the world will tumble toward eternal chaos. 

FREE ON AMAZON




You can run. You can hide. But you can’t escape Judgment Day.

Changes are in store for Rosalie, David, and the gang at Penrose’s. Remodeling has begun and lives are in upheaval as well as floorplans. Rosalie’s duties as the new human warden on the Integral council draws her deeper into their politics. A clan leader dies, another is elected, and a plot against a third turns deadly. Who will emerge unscathed and who will be banished? Meanwhile, Judgment Day approaches when rights are set wrong and anyone who crosses a cupid risks the Kiss of Death. 

AMAZON SALE

 




Monday, October 26, 2020

Where Wolf? There Wolf. The History of the Werewolf.

 Where Wolf? There Wolf. The History of the Werewolf.

Everyone knows the origin story of the werewolf. Some poor schlub is bitten by what he or she thinks is a large dog but then during the next full moon voila, a monster is born. That’s the movie version. After the release of Universal’s The Wolfman in 1941 everyone assumed the story was based on an old legend, but it all spilled from the imagination of screenwriter, Curt Siodmak. The curse transferred by a bite? Transformation only under the light of a full moon? Death by a silver bullet? Not an ancient legend. It was all Curt and, in my opinion, he did a darn fine job.

Before 1941, the wolfman wasn’t part of popular culture. However, there are countless myths and fables about animal transformation, including wolves. Some are punishment, but some transform willingly. The ancient Babylonians sat around the campfire swapping tales from the Epic of Gilgamesh in about 2100 BC. The hero Gilgamesh, in a fit of pique jilted a potential lover because she had turned her previous mate into a wolf. There’s no evidence he didn’t enjoy it. The Greek historian, Herodotus wrote about the Neuri, a nomadic tribe of magical men who changed into wolf shapes for several days of the year, but not necessarily during the full moon. They weren’t savages, just different, and happy to be that way. The first description of a man into a wolf was written by the scholar Ovid. A fellow named Lycaon angered Zeus and was turned into a wolf as a punishment.

He tried to speak, but his voice broke into

an echoing howl. His ravening soul infected his jaws;

his murderous longings were turned on the cattle; he still was possessed

by bloodlust. His garments were changed to a shaggy coat and his arms

into legs. He was now transformed into a wolf. 

Wolf transformation stories appeared where wolves were plentiful such as the Norse lands and Baltic regions but it wasn’t all bad. In the Saga of the Volsungs, a father and son discovered wolf pelts that had the power to turn people into wolves for ten days. (No full moon required.) After transforming, they went on a killing rampage in the forest. The father attacked his son, causing a lethal wound, but the son survived because a kind raven gave the father a magic feather. All’s well. No silver bullet needed.

Since the werewolf’s condition is often associated with a curse, the poor werewolf was often thought to be as much a victim as a villain. Many of the legends of people turning savage were no doubt due to mental illness. Without the knowledge brought by modern medicine and psychiatry, a sudden onslaught of violence and  irrational behavior was often attributed to demons, a curse, or other forms of magic, but there are rational explanations. Hypertrichosis is a rare, genetic disorder that causes excessive hair growth. While diseases such as rabies or ingestion of certain plants can cause hallucinations and violent behavior. Doctors in the Middle Ages would offer cures to people who thought they were afflicted. Often the emetics, bloodletting, and vile concoctions patients ingested caused more problems rather than helping.

Expect a werewolf problem in your neighborhood on Halloween? Try the following. The Greeks and Romans believed in the power of exhaustion. The victim would be subjected to long periods of physical activity, while the ancient Danes believed merely scolding a werewolf, cured the affliction. So run that puppy around the block a few times and give it a “Bad dog” or two. 



Saturday, September 26, 2020

Drafting the Rough Draft

  

Drafting the Rough Draft

Elements

Without bones, people are nothing but floppy meat sacks. Fiction is the same. It needs support to flesh out the story and that starts with the rough draft. The meat on the bones are plot, characterization and a building a logical flow to the story. They polish a manuscript, but excessive details aren’t necessary in the beginning and can even bog the writer down, so that the story comes to a screaming halt and never leaves the planning process.

How do you begin a rough draft? First, select the voice. Should it be first person, second or third? Some writing blogs will tell you to avoid a certain voice (usually first person). Ignore them and go with your gut. It’s never wrong. One of the voices will “feel right.” Next, chose a theme. This isn’t a big deal. If you have an idea for a story, you already have a theme, but you may not have put voice to it. Common themes such overcoming adversity, coming of age, and redemption. A theme helps keep the plot focused. When you come to a sticking point, consider the themes. How can it advance from here?

 

To schedule or not to schedule? That is the question.

It’s important to have a place to work that’s comfortable and relatively free of distractions. You don’t need a desk. Want to work in your jammies? Go right ahead, but set aside time to write. How much is up to you, but try to have some consistency. You’ll never finish that Great American Novel if you don’t give yourself time to work on it.

Should you strive for a daily word count, page count, or paragraph goal? Decide what stresses you out the least and go with that. Remember, even if you only do three paragraphs a day, keep at it and in about six months you’ll have a novel. It takes more time than that to make a baby.

 

“The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist.” Michael Lee

 

How much research does a rough draft need?

Surprisingly little or none. J. K. Rowling and Vladimir Nabokov plotted their stories out first on little notecards. Frankly, that would drive me bat nuts. You can get so bogged down in the fiddly bits, that the meat of the story is lost. Research can lead you off on too many tangents. Instead, when you get to the point where data is needed, put in a placeholder and move on. The heroine in your ancient Mesopotamian time travel tale doesn’t need to know the dimensions of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon right away. Simply put INSERT GARDEN INFO here and keep writing. A rough draft means rough. On a side note: I would never do NaNoRiMo, the pressure of 2,000 words a day is too much. Do what’s comfortable for you. Writing isn’t punishment. If it’s not fun, why are you doing it? I wouldn’t. Life is too short to make yourself miserable.

 

Ack, I’m stuck.

You’ve hit the wall and can’t go farther, but that ending is still dynamite. The question is how to get there if you’re stuck someplace else? The writing police won’t arrest you if you write out of order. Write that dynamite ending first and then go back to the middle.  Or write the ending first before starting the first chapter and maybe a few scenes that stick in your mind. Then go back to the beginning and work your way forward.

 

“Good stories are not written. They are rewritten.” 

Phyllis Whitney

 

Forgive us this day our daily crappy writing.

I don’t care what your mommy said, she lied. Your first draft isn’t special, it’s garbage. Everyone’s first draft is garbage, even William Shakespeare. His best friend would have raised an eyebrow and said, “Will, this reeketh.”

Apply the polish later. Don’t overedit as you write and feedback isn’t necessary.  You don’t need feedback on garbage. You know it’s garbage. You need feedback when you have something better and need honest opinions for improvement.

 

When to give up.

I’m not one of those people who believes it’s important to suffer for art. That’s nonsense. I wake up excited to work on a project, but if I dread looking at it, then it’s time to shelve the rough draft and start something else. Never delete a draft, because you may come back to it later. After a time, new ideas surface. It’s okay to use only part of it, too. Take a scene you love, work on that instead, and send your story in a whole new direction.

 

Now get started on that rough draft and remember it will be garbage, but garbage can turn into compost and that can fertilize a lovely garden.



Thursday, August 27, 2020

Elements of a Story

 


There are several elements that contribute to writing a novel and knowing the differences and how to use them can herd the flow of ideas into a logical story. The first is the narrative element.

Narrative

When you think of fiction, you think of narrative. Every story has to have one. Narrative is the layout, the method to connect a series of ideas into a coherent whole. Without it, a writer has a jumble of plot points, scenes, and description, but narrative connects the dots to a logical flow and is the most telling aspect of the novel. Even stream-of-consciousness (which makes no sense to me at all) has a narrative, albeit obscure. Narrative introduces the characters, defines the major conflicts, lays out the plot and describes the setting. They have a beginning, middle, and end. Narratives also have at least one theme that moves the story along toward the resolution.

There are different types of narrative. Some are linear where events move in chronological order. Some are non-linear and where author may start at the end, and then the rest of the book relates how the characters got there. Narrative also lays out the viewpoint. Who is telling the story and how much of the truth to they see?

While narrative is the major element of fiction, there are others that are generally thought of as only relating to nonfiction. However, keeping them in mind adds realism to dialogue and description.

 Expository

Expository writing explains and illuminates. It is associated with textbooks, essays, and magazine articles that are instructive and pass on knowledge or facts. fiction, every story has a Even in fiction, you eventually have to tell your reader something. A good example is in worldbuilding. How do you write a description of your fictional universe without sounding like a newspaper article? One way is to keep it short. You don’t want three pages detailing the ingredients of the wizard’s potion. Even three paragraphs are probably too much. Decide what’s important at that particular point in the story and eliminate the rest or shelve it for another chapter. In fiction, expository writing works best when you break it into sections and sprinkle it about. If the character doesn’t need the information immediately, then the reader doesn’t either.

 Persuasive

Persuasive writing is generally associated with essays. It’s used to coax the reader over to a particular point of view or a side in an argument, but it can be very useful in fiction. Eventually, characters in a book will argue or come across a situation where they need to make a choice. If they give in too quickly, they come across as wish-washy. This is particularly important when faced with a moral dilemma. Your heroine doesn’t need to sound like a lawyer. “I shall now recap the evidence to show why I should not sleep with Prince Charming until the prenup is signed.” Characters don’t need to voice every pro and con of a choice, but the writer should consider the reasons ahead of time. Plant the logical seeds early. A weak-willed character will act one way and strong-willed another.

Descriptive

Descriptive writing is exactly what it sounds like; it is used to paint a picture in the reader’s head of a person, place or thing. It’s important in science fiction and fantasy world-building, but equally so in a contemporary novel. The objects around a character must feel as real to the reader as the characters, and not unrealistic add-ons. You want the reader to get lost in the words as if it’s a real world. The right descriptions add logic to the story. This may sound strange in fantasy and science fiction. They aren’t innately logical. They don’t have to be. They only have to feel logical. This means a magical system, for instance, has to conform to rules. Who can use it; when, where, and how? The planet where the rocket ship landed also needs rules such as a climate and populace that makes sense. Sorry, no shark people spontaneously inventing laser guns. An underwater race won’t have fire; no fire no electricity, no electricity no laser beams. But you can make them telepathic or give them the ability to summon tsunamis. Get the picture?


 

 

Monday, July 27, 2020

What's Your Favorite Mondegreen? (Then scroll down for a 99 cent Christmas in July sale)


What's your Favorite Mondegreen?

(Then scroll down for a 99 cent Christmas in July sale)

I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books lately and it drives me a little bat nuts when I hear a mispronounced word. (Note to narrator of my current listen: The word ‘chassis’ is pronounced CHASS-see and not CHASS-sis, and the term is duded up not dudded up.) I have a tendency to yell at my tablet. I also have a tendency to yell at music I’m listening to when the singer mumbles and I can’t quite figure the words. “Enunciate and spit it out, you dolt.” That’s when my brain, of its own accord, reaches for a mondegreen.


What’s that, you say? You all know them and may even have a favorite. A mondegreen is an error resulting from a listener mishearing something in a song, poem, or phrase. Since the listener can’t determine the correct words, the brain substitutes something else that sorta makes sense, but leads to a lot of head scratching.


The word mondegreen first appeared in 1954 in an article in Harper’s Magazine. It was invented by American author and editor Sylvia Wright. As a child, she heard the Scottish ballad The Bonnie Earl O' Moray: It had the line, “They have slain the Earl O’Moray and Lady Mondegreen.” It always made her feel sad and puzzled since Lady Mondegreen was never mentioned again. Who was this mysterious woman? The earl’s lover? An innocent bystander? Why was she murdered? It wasn’t until years later when, as an adult, she saw the poem in print and discovered to her surprise the line was actually, “They have slain the Earl O’Moray and laid him on the green.” Ms. Wright coined the term mondegreen and stated they were often better than the original. I tend to agree.


The first mondegreen many children hear is probably from the Pledge of Allegiance as generations have pondered the vow to Richard Stands. The mondegreens I recall fondly are generally associated with music. One of my favorites is Killing Me Softly With his Song, sung by Roberta Flack. She obviously dug the guy in the song, but I never could figure out why since he kept “strumming her face with his fingers.” How annoying to have someone constantly poking you in the eye. I’d have smacked him. Oh, he’s “strumming her pain”, you say. Well, that makes a bit more sense. I probably wouldn’t have hit him for that.

One song that drove me nuts for years was I’d Really Love to See you Tonight by England Dan and John Ford Coley where the young man, desperate for a date, is whining that “He’s not talking about the linen.” What linen? Did he leave a mess in her bathroom? Steal her good sheets? That would certainly have put him on my ex-boyfriend list. Maybe if he brought her a set of nice percales or Egyptian cotton towels, she’d let him back in…oh, he’s not talking about the linen, but “moving in.” Okay, I can see that, but frankly, the linen has a more interesting backstory.



What is it with Elton John? He speaks like a regular Brit, but when he opens his mouth to sing, all this weird stuff falls out. His Rocket Man has the neighbors up in arms because he’s “burning up the trees off every lawn.” The HOA will hear about this. No wait, he’s actually, “burning out his fuse up here alone.” Then there’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Even if you hear the right words, they don’t make sense. “There’s a dark cloud inside of the house.” (“The dogs of society howl.”)  “You can’t land me in the henhouse.” (“You can’t plant me in the penthouse.”) I guess he needs to go there because of the dark clouds in the house, but I wonder if the chickens will ever accept him as an equal. Finally, he just gives up and goes back to Howard and Al in the woods. That’s nice. His two best friends have missed him, until you realize it’s actually “back to the howling owl in the woods.” Okay, but, frankly, I think the owl is of the same mind as the chickens and couldn’t care less. He should look up Howard and Al and join them at the pub for a pint. He’d feel better after a nice chat.

Do you have a favorite mondegreen? Or are the ants your friends, blowing in the wind. (“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”)

 Christmas in July Sale

Amazon Buy Link
The Naughty List is on Sale for 99 Cents until July 31. Free on Kindle Unlimited.

This isn’t a typical yuletide tale.

Murder, mystical artifacts, an invisible demon with anger management issues, and an overbearing cupid—not what Rosalie Thatcher wished for on her Christmas list

The holidays had always been a magical time for Rosalie, but not this year. Her new manager at Penrose’s Department Store is determined to make this season the most profitable in the store’s history, even if it sucks the life out of every employee. Introducing arbitrary rules and stealing the affections of the cute temp Santa were bad enough, but forcing Rosalie into the stupid elf hat was the worst. The worst, that is, until she meets a real E.L.F. (Elemental Life Form) named David and gets lassoed into a desperate hunt for the stolen Naughty and Nice List. Now all Rosalie and David must do is dodge a murderous invisible demon and recover the missing artifact before hellhounds track them down. The couple race against time for without the magical guidance of the Naughty and Nice List, the world will tumble toward eternal chaos.

EXCERPT
She pulled a battered cardboard box from the closet and ran her hand lovingly over the dusty surface. Rosalie’s Christmas Box—her mother’s handwriting clearly visible even after many years. She set up the bedraggled artificial tree and wrapped around the lights. A boxful of handmade ornaments, a few strands of garland and voilâ! Rosalie stood back to admire the results. The top of the tree canted lazily to one side, most of the glitter had fallen off the macaroni wreath, and the craft stick reindeer lacked one googly eye. To her mind, the tree never looked better.

Rosalie placed one final ornament near the top, a bright pink snowflake always hung last. Her father bought the ugly hunk of plastic before he passed away. She loved every garish bit. Austin always ribbed her about the little tradition to jumpstart the holidays. Now he was gone, too. Off to a new job with a new girlfriend in California.

“At least we have each other, Snowflake.”

She slipped into pajamas and made a PB&J. Snuggling under the comforter on the sofa, Rosalie watched TV while she ate. The twinkly glow of the tree lights cast patchy shadows on the wall.

“Life isn’t so bad, Snowflake. The holidays are almost here. Penrose’s always shines during the holidays. Plus, I’ll get my employee bonus soon.”
The thought was enough to perk up Rosalie. Maybe the extra money would keep her a few car payments ahead of the game. She shivered as an errant chill sent a ripple of goosebumps up her arm. Suddenly nervous, she glanced around. The lights didn’t seem so bright anymore, intensifying the drab interior.

Except for one.

The little pink snowflake cast a blood red reflection on the wall as if flashing a warning. She blinked. The image vanished. Rosalie chuckled to herself. Oh brother, I’m really tired. She turned off the TV and staggered into the bedroom. Five minutes after her head hit the pillow, she was asleep.
* * * *
David stood on top of General Robert E. Lee’s head and surveyed the surroundings. The lake at the foot of Stone Mountain, Georgia, was far below surrounded by a mixture of wooded areas and green open fields. As dusk settled, Atlanta’s lights twinkled in the distance. Any other time he would linger over the breathtaking view, but he wasn’t there to sightsee. He closed his eyes and let his senses drift. For a few horrible moments the thread eluded his grasp. Did the connection sever already?

Oh please, not yet.

With undisguised relief, he latched on to the sharp unmistakable pull. The Book was south this time—definitely south. At least, he headed in the right direction. He realized his hands shook and grinned wryly.

You’re not dead yet. Keep ahead of the hellhounds and you’ll be fine.

David’s sharp eyes pinpointed an open spot down on the valley floor over eight hundred feet below. The light was strong enough for him to get a good fix; no cars, no people, nothing to impede a soft landing. He casually stepped off General Lee’s head, and dashed-away in a puff of wind.


AMAZON BUY LINK  Free for Kindle Unlimited





Saturday, June 27, 2020

Once Upon a Time: How to Start That Story



You have a hazy idea for a story or maybe its sharp and clear, but you’ve been sitting in front of the computer for hours staring at a blank screen. How the heck do you jumpstart this jalopy? Here are a few steps to get your mojo going. 

First Chapter Decisions
Beginning writers often think that the entire story needs to be plotted before any work can begin. That’s not necessarily so. Many writers don’t work with chapter by chapter outlines and only have a rough idea of the beginning, the middle, and the end, but there are several important points to keep in mind to help you get started on that first chapter.


What is the story about? Isn’t this the plot? Well, not entirely. The plot is the story, but the story hinges on the characters’ underlying motivation. There are often more than one, so it’s more important to ask, what is the theme? Or to put it simply, what issue or issues does this book tackle and how do the characters deal with it. Here are some common themes:

Coming of Age
Empowerment
Everlasting Love
Good versus Evil
Greed
Fate versus Free Will
Overcoming Personal Weaknesses
Pride
Redemption
Social Mobility

Books are a way to explore themes in depth and readers should get at least a hint in the first chapter. (Some might argue in the first few paragraphs.) You don’t need to spell it out for the them. Descriptions are more effective. It’s often helpful to start a story with a character’s limitations. How does a shy woman extricate herself from a bad blind date? How does a character in a wheelchair tackle a staircase without a ramp? Conflict within the first few pages helps, too. This doesn’t mean start the chapter with a knife fight (although you can.) Conflict doesn’t have to by physical, but can also be personal (disagreement between two people) or mental (making a tough decision.)

That being said, main characters should be introduced early. Many publishers of romance novels want the heroine and hero to meet in the first chapter. I don’t think a hard and fast rule like that is necessary, but you want readers to engage with the novel early on. Major characters move the story along. That’s hard to do if they aren’t introduced until halfway through the book. On the other hand, don’t dump a load of characters in the first chapter. It’s too confusing for a reader to keep everyone straight. A writer builds a story like a bricklayer build a wall, one piece at a time. The reader needs get to know each character individually. Tough to do when many fight for attention at the same time.


Inciting Incident
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
This opening line is now considered trite, but, remember, the first time written, it was an attention grabber. A line like this can be a lead-in to an inciting incident. An inciting incident isn’t a random event, but action that will have reverberations through the rest of the book. The opening paragraphs should hook the reader and leave them wanting more and an inciting incident is just the ticket. It should tease the reader’s interest and offer a bit of mystery, but you don’t need a police procedural. An inciting incident in a romance novel could be the heroine catching sight of the new guy in town. An inciting incident in a science fiction novel could be the heroine noticing strange lights in the sky. The one thing you don’t want to do is solve the mystery right away.

So chose your main characters, decide the theme, select an inciting incident and write a first line to draw in the readers. You may find starting that novel isn’t so hard after all.