Gobolinks and Blottentots

You may recognize these inkblots from my last post. The image on the left looked to me like two teddy bears playing with a ball from the moment I made it. The image on the right, however, originally looked like an angelic figure or winged creature (turned 180°), but when I looked at it again, I saw a canyon carved by water flow. Because the original inkblots were made with glitter-glue, the blue watercolor flowed like water and did not soak into the paper, so it even acted like mountain lakes flowing into a river in a canyon. It was very fun to make.

More Fun With Klecksography

Gobolinks and Blottentots

At the turn of the 19th to 20th century,  people expanded on Justin Kerner’s ideas of Klecksography, the art of using inkblots in illustration and created works of their own. Ruth McEnery Stuart turned the creations of inkblots and verse into a game called Gobolinks and John Prosper called the inkblot creatures he created and described in verse, Blottentots. Both of these books of inkblots and verse are now available online through Project Gutenberg.

Project Gutenberg ebooks:

gobolinks coverGobolinks or Shadow Pictures For Young and Old by Ruth The Blottentots coverMcEnery Stuart and Albert Bigelow Paine 1896

Blottentots and How To Make Them by John Prosper Carmel 1907

Inkblots As Story Inspiration

I had a lot of fun creating a bunch of inkblots the other day. One of the great things about inkblots is they are a super-cheap, if not free (you can make them with things you already have in your house) art form and you can make them very quickly.

I did a little experimenting and found porous paper, like regular typing or printing paper works better than thicker paper. So any scrap paper you have lying about is the perfect canvas, and any drippable liquid will do. I used a cheap, hard-disc watercolor set with a lot of water. If you don’t have watercolors, you could use acrylics, or left over house paint. If you don’t have any paint, use mustard and ketchup. Use coffee or tea. Try mud. Why not? Make sure to protect your work area. I rolled out a bunch of butcher paper.

As I made more and more inkblots, my scrap paper got smaller and smaller. I found joy in the black and white blots that were about 2″ X 2″.  Many of them looked as if they could combine to become more detailed creatures, so I got out a metal board and some magnets and had some fun.

metal board and magnets play area

Looking at all these unique beauties made me ponder the stories they could tell. For those of you who have read Jumpstart Your Novel by Mark Teppo, what about using inkblots to inspire or illustrate your nine boxes?

Nine Box Plot

Or how about using your inkblots to access your subconscious ideas about your hero’s journey? Perhaps in a similar way to, or along with Mapping the Hero’s Journey With Tarot.  The hero's journey in inkblots

You could also use inkblots to inspire setting and character:

spring garden

A spring garden

mantiss gnome


A garden gnome spinning on a spike

Character development: Use your inkblots with your characters like Rorschach tests to explore their psyches.

Group dynamic/ character interaction: Have your characters play a game of Gobolinks.

Since I am having so much fun with inkblots, I hope to find ways that they will help me enjoy my editing and revision process as well. I’ll let you know as soon as I do.

Further Reading

Inkblot: Drip, Splat, and Squish Your Way to Creativity by Margaret Peot

The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing by Damion Searls

The Inkblot Pack: Includes the 10 Classic Inkblots for you to interpret & a beautifully designed journal with thought provoking quotes

And Just For Fun

Rorschach mask

As a photographer and a costumer, I imagine many possibilities for The Original Moving Rorschach Inkblot Mask, so I bought one. I should have it in about 10 days and will definitely write a review.

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

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Reaping A Bountiful Harvest

summer squash, pole beans, kale, Swiss chard and a lemon cucumber nicely displayed on a wood countertop

The harvest: Summer squash, lemon cucumber, pole beans, Swiss chard & 4 kinds of kale

I find no meal more satisfying than the one picked fresh from my garden. This year’s harvest is turning out to be very exciting. This year is the year of vine vegetables and many kinds of kale. Yum. The beauties pictured above were used for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For breakfast this morning I had a piece of grain and seed toast with a little yogurt ranch Three slices of lemon cucumber showing the pretty star-shaped centers and seedsdressing, white cheddar cheese and slices of lemon cucumber. The first bite was surprising. The sweetness of the cucumber drew out the salt in the bread to an acute surprise.

For lunch, the summer squash served as noodles after going through the spiral slicer . The raw squash had less taste than I expected, but was full of flavor once topped with an olive oil sauce of onions, garlic, Roma tomatoes (from my friend’s garden), and fresh rosemary and thyme (growing in pots on the porch).

Harvest DinnerDinner was wonderful. We put brown and wild rice in the rice cooker and food steamer and steamed the beans and some cauliflower. Then when those veggies were done, we steamed the greens and some mushrooms. I topped the whole thing with my favorite spicy peanut sauce. I used the Gado Gado recipe from The New Moosewood Cookbook .

This wonderful harvest after years of being mostly thwarted is a great metaphor for the writing life. It takes persistence and constantly trying new and creative things.

I keep planting every year, no matter how the last harvest turns out. Every year I try something new. I try new vegetables. I change where and when I plant. I’ve planted horizontally, vertically and in arcs. This year I added planting up with poles and twine. This year, I’m also going to try a fall/winter garden, replanting as soon as I finish the harvest.

In my writing life, I make another Gator McBumpypants picture book, another NaNoWriMo novel, another short story, another poem, no matter how the last one was received. I read, I enjoy online courses and I learn and practice the craft every day. I don’t approach the page the same way, but try new skills and ideas all the time.

At the beginning of the week, I organized all of my writing projects for this fall and found an amazing word harvest. I found a lot more words on the page than I expected. I have so many wonderful projects to work on, it’s hard to choose; in a good way.

Today is about celebrating the harvest. It’s about time and patience. If we keep at it, one day we may be happily surprised with enough to eat.

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

Author Interview with Diana Rose Wilson – November: It’s not just #NaNoWriMo. Don’t forget #Movember.

pumpkins with mustaches

Visit saralukecreative to get your mustache stickers

bio pic of Diana Rose Wilson

Last month, author Diana Rose Wilson shared her great writing tips and tricks in her guest post Be Outrageous!  Now, just in time for her favorite holiday, Halloween, she has agreed to answer my questions about her writing, her websites and her love of mustaches.

We met at the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference (#PNWC16), so let’s start off with: When did you first know you were a writer?

I got the writing bug when I was in about 3rd grade. Between reading The Black Stallion and Watership Down, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I tried it up through high school but knew by then I didn’t have the chops to make a living doing it. In my twenties I wrote fan fiction and played text based role-playing games but couldn’t get anything published. I hung up my pen and went to the corporate world until a few years ago when I decided to try again with some life behind me.

Do you write every day? Tell us a little about your writing practice.

I do write every day but not always on a story. When I’m in story mode, I try to put down about 3k words. I love when I can get 5k but sometimes it’s more like 500. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I still play text-based role-playing games. When I’m in editing mode I don’t keep a word count and I will spend two or three hours ‘writing’ on the game.

Are you a plotter or a pantser (someone who outlines and plans or someone who writes by the seat of her pants)?

I was a plotter when I first started and then I went to pants’ing and now I think I’m a plantster. I like to have my characters fleshed out and some ideas of the story’s direction but I string the plots together a little like Christmas lights. Bulb by bulb. Right now I have a wide reaching story so I have a lot of wire to put bulbs in. I know where they need to go, I just never know what color light is getting hooked in next. Maybe I’m a new mutation: The Stringer.

What is your best trick for getting more words on the page?

When I can’t get a scene or plot to move forward, or when I’m completely blocked. I physically make myself type. I have sat down and wrote myself a pep talk until the scene started to form in my mind and I could transcribe it. I have written random character descriptions and histories and drawn up family bloodlines just to put fingers on keys to write something.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

I draw a lot of inspiration from music. Sometimes a song will just strike me just right and I’ll get an idea for a scene or a character or it will help drive me through a less than interesting point in a story.

Who have you found most influential to your writing?

My husband absolutely is the most influential. Not only because he’s a sounding board for all my ideas but he really pushed me to do what I love. He always encouraged me to write, even when I had completely thrown away the idea that I had ‘it’ in me.

Do you listen to music while you write? What do you listen to? Do you create playlists?

I always have music going when I’m writing. Depending on what I’m writing the music will change. I like a lot of sappy love songs when I’m doing the sweet scenes but very hard metal when for action and drama related scenes. I keep a few playlists and I have a songs I relate to various characters and tend to play them to get into the mindset to write them. I’m not a big country music fan but if I want to write something emotional it’s western music all the way.

Who are your favorite authors?

Richard Adams

Sharron Lee & Steve Miller

Jim Butcher

George R. R. Martin

Christina Lauren

What are your favorite books?

Watership Down (Who doesn’t like war-rabbits?)

MAIA

The Stand

Korval’s Game (Liaden Universe®), (Ok, so it’s two novels: Plan B & I Dare but do yourself a favor and try it. They are addicting. You’ve been warned.

Dresden Files (15 books) – I can’t order them in favorite.

What three writer’s blogs do you visit most often?

Jane Friedman – https://janefriedman.com/blog/

Janet Reid’s blog – http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/

L.M. Pierce’s most awesome and helpful blog – http://www.piercebooks.com/blog

What three writer’s websites do you visit most often?

http://www.georgerrmartin.com/ (For any whisper of the next book)

http://korval.com/ – Sharron Lee & Steve Miller. Sharron Lee has a great blog too.

http://christinalaurenbooks.com/ – Keeping up to date with release dates.

Also http://www.writersdigest.com/ – is a great site /for/ writers.

I know you love Halloween. Are you dressing up this year? Tell us about your favorite Halloween costume.

I love Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos and Samhain too. Then there are costumes! There’s something fun about pretending you’re someone else for a day (or weekend). I am pulling off Wonder Woman this year, just so I can wear tights, a cape and a mask! My favorite costume would be the year we cross-dressed as Napoleon and Josephine. I make a sexy Napoleon!

Very cool. I made Napoleon and Josephine costumes for my friends’ band. He wore his Napoleon costume for Mardi Gras this year.

I noticed you changed your name on Twitter from @DianaRoseWilson to DIE-ana Thorn Wilson. Are you doing any fun Halloween themed things on your website spiritbeast.org? The name sounds perfect for Halloween already.

I don’t have anything planned for Halloween but I am trying to get a gathering together this weekend. I released a free Halloween story for fans and hope to reconnect with some people I haven’t seen around for a few months. I welcome people to drop in and make a persona and check it out.

Let’s talk more about your webite. You have to swear you’re 18+ to enter. Is it scary in there?

Scary? Well, not really. I have been writing primarily erotica and worried if I didn’t have my disclaimer someone was going to get offended. I set up the spiritbeast.org site for fans that were dying for updates. I have this page set up for guests to make more of a persona rather than their ‘real’ information. I want it to be a safe chat area to talk about adult themes in text. There are forums and a chat feature. I have a few story-related goodies like the Harris and Wallace family trees (going back to the 1800’s). I’ve really thrown myself into world building so the website is a place to share some of the goodies.

You have another website Direwill.com. What will readers find there?

This is more of a general author website with information about upcoming books and what’s going on with me. I keep it tame and all-ages appropriate without spoilers, goodies or role playing.

You play a mean game of #pessimisticmoustache. Where do you get those great mustache GIFs?

I love me some manly facial fuzz! https://giphy.com/ is a great place for some action GIFs, or I do a search on Twitter for them. I have some secret weapons in my photo ‘stash’ as well. I come from a long line of bikers and outlaws, I think it’s part of the rule book that the men must have face fuzz.

This November you and I will be talking a lot about Movember. Can you tell the readers what that is and how they can participate?

Movember is a fundraising effort for men’s health issues. Like wearing pink for breast cancer awareness, the ‘mo’, slang for mustache, is the ribbon guys wear. For the 30 days of November men grow their ‘stache and form teams to raise money. No shaving for the guys upper lip for the month. Check out information and how to set up a team here: https://us.movember.com/

Since I’m not going to grow out a sister-stache, I’ll celebrate facial hair using your awesome game I have hijacked: https://experiencewriting.com/2016/07/22/the-pessimistic-moustache-game-avoiding-cliche-description/

There will be a mix of blog and twitter posts coming out using the #pessimisticmoustache hashtag.

Now, in your original game you encourage other body parts and throw an ‘ism to name it, but for the sake of Movember and awesome beards/mustaches/goatees/chops everywhere, I’m going to focus only on the hair.

I’m locating some random face-fluff pictures ala Santa Clause and players are encouraged to describe it with one word. An ‘ism, an ‘istic or something completely off the wall. I may have a list of a few for a multiple-choice vote to mix things up.

What are you going to do for Movember?

In past years KISW’s The Men’s Room (Seattle seriously has the best radio station!) usually has a Movember team and I donate to that. A have threatened to try to grow my own stache, but I’m just not brave enough. 😉

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you ever?

I will! NaNoWriMo got me back into writing when I decided to try writing again. The first two years I didn’t win but the third year is when it finally clicked and that is the story that started the whole ball rolling. I’m not sure what my project will be exactly but I have a few weeks to pick what to focus on.

When you’re not writing, what is your favorite thing to do?

I’m very lucky to live in wine country between Napa and Sonoma where I can enjoy as much wine and fancy food as my little heart can handle. Food. Wine. Writing. Sounds prefect to me.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Cat person, on the crazy cat lady end of the spectrum.

What bit of wisdom would you share with new writers?

I encourage writers to to keep writing. Give yourself permission to write what you enjoy. Write as much as you possibly can and experiment until you find what brings you the most joy. The other thing is to find a support group of writers who you can talk and work with. Look for people who will lift you up and be kind in their feedback. Not a lot of non-writers can grasp what we go through when we’re living in an imaginary world with our invisible friends for weeks, months, years at a time.

Thank you, Diana.

Currently Diana lives in wine country with her husband where she enjoys good wine, better food, loud Harleys, 3-day eventing and the delights of deviant erotica. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Redwood Writers, Snoopy Writers and CFTW Writer’s Block.

Readers, make sure to visit Diana at spiritbeast.org and Direwill.com and follow her on twitter @DianaRoseWilson.

Diana and I look forward to more players at #pessimisticmoustache for the month of #Movember.

 

Beware The Creeping Nouns

creeping-nouns

I am reading A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work by Jack Hart. Though it is geared toward journalism,  the information is useful and inspiring for my fiction.

One sign of a skilled writer is avoiding redundancy. Mr. Hart uses the analogy of felling a a-writers-coachtree. The skilled woodsman takes efficient strokes and controls where the tree falls, but the “city slicker” hacks away, exhausting himself and endangering his neighbors.

Sharpen Your Axe

During your first draft, you don’t want to think about word choice, you just want to get your ideas down, right? But what if, some of those overused words, those pesky redundancies and expletives never got on the page? It would save you a ton of time during editing.

This Halloween, you are sharpening your axe for a monster hunt. You are hunting E.B. White’s “leeches that infest the pond of prose” and Jack Hart’s parasites that live alongside them in that pond. Once you are trained to recognize these monsters you can stop them dead before they get to your pages!

The Leeches and Parasites

leech

Leeches –

Expletives are more than the beeps we hear on TV. The word expletive also means any syllable,word, or phrase conveying no independent meaning,esp inserted in a line of verse for the sake of the metre (from dictionary.com).

Make sure to hack away at “it is,” “it was,” “there is,” “there were,” and “there are.”

Creeping Nouns are nouns that attach themselves to other nouns but add nothing but dead weight. Mr. Hart believes that if we avoid unnecessary use of “situation,” “field,” and “condition,” we could eliminate half the creeping nouns published. Here are a couple examples from A Writer’s Coach.

. . . and one source said the Cincinnati Reds manager faces a possible suspension for gambling activities.

Gambling is already the activity causing the possible suspension. Activities is redundant.

Officials are saying the combination of millions of dying trees, the seventh year of drought conditions and . . .

Drought is the condition thus conditions is redundant.

Hart’s other examples of creeping nouns you should include on your monster hunt are: field, industry, profession, concerns, event, experience, facilities, situation, and status.

Remember: these aren’t words you want to eliminate from your writing, they are words that can become creeping nouns that create redundancy when they cling to other nouns.

parasites

Parasites –

To avoid parasites, you want to avoid over using qualifiers. A qualifier is the same as a modifier – a word, phrase, or sentence element that limits or qualifies the sense of another word, phrase, or element in the same construction.(dictionary.com)

Mr. Hart calls these parasites “petty modifiers” and “needless qualifiers.” The monsters that should see the sharp blade of your axe before they mangle your writing are: rather, somewhat, generally, virtually, pretty, slightly, a bit and little.

And don’t forget the pernicious overused words: very, like and just!

Happy monster hunting and happy #Writober.

 

About Writing: Guest post by Michael Onofrey

picture of man sitting next to his dictionary on a grassy hill writing in the park

The urge to write is what got me into writing fiction, or trying to write fiction. And by “urge” I mean a feeling that I want to write. This was what motivated me and what continues to motivate me. I don’t think this is unusual—the urge to write. A lot of people have it. But of course those numbers diminish considerably when it comes to picking up a pen or sitting down at a keyboard.

It wasn’t until well into middle age, forty-five years old, that I sat down at a keyboard with the intent of writing fiction. Of course in college (community college and then university) I wrote papers (essays and book reports) like everyone else. But that’s different than composing fiction with the intent of submitting to publications. Of course all writing counts. I’m not belittling college. I’m simply distinguishing between college papers, with the exception of creative writing classes, and fiction for publication. I think anyone who has done both understands the distinction.

Also, in college I majored in U.S. History, which is now call American Studies. So my only background and my only qualification for writing fiction was, and is, reading books, fiction mostly. But there, too, I got a late start, for I didn’t begin to read until I was in my last semester of high school (Industrial Arts major). I could hardly read. This might strike some people as strange. But it’s not strange. A lot of people coming out of high school are poor readers.

An odd set of circumstances prompted me to pick up a book. I was dating a girl from another high school, which made our dating possible because we were of very different social circles, for if we had been going to the same school we wouldn’t have gotten together. But by going to different schools neither one of us, her in particular, suffered any social embarrassment, for high school life is all about cliques. She was a half a year ahead of me, which meant she would be graduating in June, whereas I wouldn’t be graduating until the following year at the end of January.

When summer rolled around, the summer of her graduation, university life about to begin for her in September, she jilted me, which, even though I expected it, sent me into a mental tailspin. Strangely, on the afternoon of that devastating phone call I started driving and wound up in front of a bookstore. She had mentioned the titles of books during our time together and I, for whatever reason, had remembered two—The Stranger by Albert Camus and Another Country by James Baldwin. Still dizzy with confusion, I went into that bookstore and asked for those two books.

What a way to begin reading, not to mention having to look up words on nearly every page. Fortunately, as if it were a minor miracle, I was able to follow the stories, and a window flew open and there I was, looking out at a new world.

Man carrying dictionary by a lake
“I carried a dictionary and a novel everywhere I went”

I carried a dictionary and a novel everywhere I went for eight years, and when loading up a backpack every bit of weight counts. I’m still a poor speller. I still consult a dictionary often for spelling and definitions and word usage. I wouldn’t recommend getting a late start on reading, just as I wouldn’t recommend getting a late start on serious writing. Six years after I started writing and submitting, a small literary journal (Words of Wisdom, North Carolina, a publication that has since ceased publishing) accepted one of my stories.

Six years—that’s a lot of rejection. And I still get a lot of rejection. My writing is not consistent, and I don’t think it ever will be, just as I will never be a good speller nor will my vocabulary have the natural range that it might have had if I had started reading at an early age. Okay, so that’s the way it is. A lot of other people have it worse. Imagine trying to write in Aleppo, Syria.

Writing will probably never be more than a hobby for me, and by hobby I mean an activity that doesn’t generate enough money for me to live on. I wish there was another word besides “hobby.” “Pastime” maybe? But that’s even more nonchalant than hobby. If I were teaching at a college or university, I could say that publishing stories, while getting little in the way of remuneration, was worthwhile because it adds to my curriculum vitae (CV), which might serve to boost my position and income. But I don’t teach at a college or a university.man carrying dictionary by some shops

In addition to not making millions there is rejection, which is always painful. In dealing with rejection, stoicism would be a nice rejoinder. After all, rejection is part of the weather. Even the most renowned writers have had work rejected, primarily before they became famous. There are only two choices when faced with rejection: feel the pain and move on, or feel the pain and give up. This isn’t about heroics. This is pragmatism. Most stories that are submitted to a publication are going to be turned down.

I’m hardly different from anyone else. I like acceptance. I write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, and submit. Rejection, rejection, rejection. After six months or so, another look, another rewrite. Revising has become fun. I don’t know why. Maybe because it presents an opportunity to play with words and sentences, as well as ideas and point of view. I do give up on stories, but I keep them on file. Now and then an idea will occur that pertains to a story I’ve given up on. I’ll draw the story up and try the idea. And then I’ll submit. Hey, all they can do is turn it down. Now and then one of those formerly dead stories will get accepted.

Also in the hash are different publications with different editors who have different tastes. Usually a rejection carries no real comment, perfunctory comments yes, but no real comments. Every once in a while, though, there is a genuine comment. Some are encouraging. But some . . . On a couple of occasions an editor has given me a totally pissed off lambasting, boredom and tedious detail cited. I guess they had had it up to their necks with that stuff, dull writing and details, and took it out on me. Or maybe they had a hangover, or maybe they couldn’t meet a mortgage payment, or maybe they were in the middle of a divorce. Yet, within that same week that same story (respective stories, but at different times) got accepted by a publication which I had deemed more reputable than the one(s) the tongue-lashing(s) came from. Highs and lows—the landscape.

man with dictionary walking by rocks

“Highs and lows—the landscape.”

 

At other times, I had given up on a story only to have it accepted after a whole lot of time by the last publication where the story was still (as it turned out) under consideration. Recently a story of mine was accepted and published by a university journal after the story went through two years of rejection and rewrites—forty-seven rejections. Why did I keep at that story? Because I believed in it. Giving up on a story or continuing with rewrites and submissions is a tricky thing, a case-by-case thing. But—I keep all my stories on file.

Favorite authors—here’s the link to my listing on Poets & Writers where I’ve listed my favorite writers: http://www.pw.org/content/michael_onofrey

About books concerning reading and writing—I return again and again to How Fiction Works by James Wood and Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.) by Francine Prose.

 

author Michael Onofrey bio picMICHAEL ONOFREY was born and raised in Los Angeles. Currently he lives in Japan. Over seventy of his short stories have been published in literary journals and magazines, in print and online, in such places as Cottonwood, The Evansville Review, Natural Bridge, Snowy Egret, Terrain.org, Weber–The Contemporary West, and The William and Mary Review. Among anthologized work, his stories have appeared in Creativity & Constraint (Wising Up Press, 2014), In New Light (Northern Initiative for Social Action, 2013), Road to Nowhere and Other New Stories from the Southwest (University of New Mexico Press, 2013), and Imagination & Place: An Anthology (Imagination & Place Press, 2009). He can be found online at Directory of Writers, Poets and Writers, and on Facebook.

Twitter #Hashtags That Motivate Revision

Twitter hashtags for writers and bloggers

Create visuals like this at canva.com. It’s quick and easy.

Twitter did not appeal to me at first (or second or third). So why, you ask, would I write this post? Recently,  I find myself enjoying it more and more. There are lots of fun challenges for writers and the character limitation ends up being a great revision tool.

How Twitter can help your revision

One Word Search

Many of the writing challenges have themes. One of the challenges I did had “green” for its theme. I opened my work in progress (WIP) and typed the word green in the find bar. This brought up every instance of the word green in my manuscript. As I searched through, looking for a sentence I would like to share with fellow writers and readers, I found myself editing every single sentence. I also noticed a trend toward shiny green eyes that I probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise–time for a game of pessimistic moustache with body part eyes. I posted:

(that’s the first time I’ve embedded a tweet. So many firsts recently here at Experience Writing )

Themes and Word Count

The reason twitter is working so well for me as a revision tool is the limited character count. Another theme I participated in was Send/Receive/Give. In my WIP, my main character wrote a poem that fit this theme perfectly. However, I could only use a small part of it within a tweet. I thought it was a great revision exercise to attempt to keep the message and feel of the poems with so few words. Here is what I tweeted:

Finished revision and ready to pitch?

The third line of hashtags in my picture is for you. Writing a pitch for your book that will fit in a tweet is great practice for creating your logline. When you’re ready to start querying agents, or are working on a new story idea #MSWL is great! Agents list stories they are looking for. This can quickly narrow your agent list to agents looking for your work.

Check out Twitter Pitching Like a Pro over at publishingcrawl.com

These are only a few ways that I find Twitter helpful to my #writingprocess. There are many more hashtags to explore and create. Have fun!

For more hashtag suggestions L.M. Pierce has a great list.

There are also many books out there about using twitter for writers. For more tips and tricks check out:
Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-By-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales

Twitter for Writers: The Author’s Guide to Tweeting Success (Writer’s Craft Book 8)
Twitter for Authors Artists and Entrepreneurs: Social Networking for the Creative Mind

Don’t forget to enter the Gator McBumpypants Contest that ends on Friday and come back Thursday for a guest post from author Michael Onofrey.

The Pessimistic Moustache Game: Avoiding cliche description

 

 The idea and tools

I recently read The Hollow by Agatha Christie and one simple but unique description jumped out at me.

“He came in accompanied by Inspector Grange, who was a large, heavy built man with a down-drooping, pessimistic moustache.”

I love the idea of pessimistic facial hair and it really got me thinking. What other isms could be paired with body parts to make unique descriptions? I started a list of isms to join pessimism: optimism, skepticism, nihilism, liberalism, etc. I also wrote a list of often described body parts: cheeks, eyes, lips and so on.Once I exhausted my own ideas, I did a little hunting on line and found some useful sites for more ideas. For isms check out The Phrontistery. I printed out their amazing list of philosophical isms and their definitions. For a list of cliché body part descriptions head over to obsidian bookshelf.

The game

So how do you play The Pessimistic Moustache Game? To start, one player has a list of body parts or other physical descriptions (e.g. gait, scar, laugh, etc.) and the other player(s) has the list of isms. The person with the body part list chooses a body part and says it out loud. Then the other player(s) has to match it with an ism to use as a descriptor. The person who chooses the best ism for the body part gets to choose the next ism and the other player(s) matches it with a corresponding body part.

You can add another dimension to the game by printing out pictures of people to inspire the descriptions though that might limit the responses.

My experiences

To date, this game amuses me to no end. I find the exercise challenging and every match makes me laugh. Has it improved my writing? Have I found the perfect new way to create unique descriptions? Maybe not, but I’ve only played with one other person so far and the possibilities are endless. It sure does make me laugh.

Further development

A couple days ago, I was reading In the Beauty of the Lillies by John Updike and found another very interesting phrase.

“. . . its heavy sweet smell rose around him possessively . . .”

I hadn’t thought of a smell being possessive before. And if a smell can be possessive, why not someone’s fingernails, or lips? The list of isms could definitely be expanded to include other conceptual adjectives that one would not usually attribute to body parts.

Then there is also descriptions of sensations (like smell) and perceptions. The Pessimistic Moustache Game could include matching senses to isms. What is the smell of materialism? What is the texture of postmodern feminism?

I hope you enjoy playing Pessimistic Moustache and it gets the neurons churning while you laugh and laugh. Please send me your favorite matches in the comments, so all my readers can play along.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Want More Readers?

While preparing my next newsletter, I noticed that my last one had a bunch of great information in it. I don’t want anyone to miss out, so here it is to give you a taste of what goes into my newsletters. If you like it, please sign up to get monthly installments and your free copy of Read to Write: Conflict and Suspense.

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So many places to post content. Make it good content!

Give your readers what they want how they want it

No matter what you are publishing to the web, your readers are going to read it differently than they would a book or other type of written media.

Studies have shown (Nielsen 2006) that people tend to scan web content. They look at the title, subtitle and first paragraph and then quickly scan to the end. This has led to two ideas of content design:

Both ideas work together. The F-shape design emphasizes grabbing your reader’s attention with an exciting title, an informative sub-title and summarizing what you are going to talk about in your first paragraph.

The upside-down pyramid is a design where you put the most important thing you want to say (or the conclusion) at the top of your post and make sure everything that needs to be read is on the top two thirds of the page.

Make your content sexy

Sexy content has nothing to do with sex (unless you’re writing erotica). It’s all about reader appeal. What makes someone look at your page of content and think, I want to read this? White space.

White space? Then why write anything, right? No, the blank page isn’t sexy. The sexiness of white space is the breath between ideas, like a rest in music creating suspense.

To create white space in your content you can use:

  • titles
  • subtitles
  • bulleted lists
  • numbered lists
  • infographics
  • images
  • tables
  • videos
  • links

In other words, anything that provides useful information and breaks up the text.

Accessibility

For me, one of the most interesting sections of learning to write for the web was the discussion of accessibility. When scrambling to finish a blog post, or in the excitement of posting a video to youtube, it is easy to forget to make our posts inclusive to as many people as possible.

When posting blog posts and videos in the past, I put very little thought into the image descriptions and alternate text. I didn’t really understand the purpose off these extra steps. But they have a very special purpose.

Imagine that you can’t see. How would you know what the image looks like that the blog post references? The digital voice on your computer would read the description of the image.

Now imagine you can’t hear. The website you are looking at has a great video, but you can’t hear a word the person is saying. Adding text to your video gives this reader access.

Spending just a little extra time with accessibility tools can enhance your content and increase your readability.

SEO: Titles and Key Words

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become big business. It is how websites, blogs, people, anything, is found through a search engine on the web.  Increasing your SEO may increase your readership. How do you increase your SEO? By using the key words your readers are searching for in your titles, key words and content.

Overwhelming, right? Not anymore. Last month you learned about creating personas. You spent time researching and getting to know your readers. Now, ask each persona, What did you type into your search engine (maybe assign a different search engine to each persona–Fred uses Bing, Jenna uses Yahoo, etc.) to find this content?

This exercise changed my ideas about key words. When I first started blogging, I listed my key words for a blog post one word at a time, but when I search for things I very rarely type one word searches. Pay attention to how you search the web. Try to image yourself searching for a topic and finding your website or blog. How did you get there?

Making sure that your titles, subtitles and phrases in your content all include your key word phrases will increase your SEO.

Take Away

Even if you have taken the time to write and edit the most interesting, well-written content that you know your readers will love because you did the research and took the time to get to know your readers and your competition, you still need to present your content in a way that will appeal to how they read on the web.

Radio Inspire Me: A Fun, New (to me) Writing Exercise

My excitement with Future Learn’s Fiction Course continues. One of the exercises from week two is to turn on the radio and come up with a story or beginning of a story (500 words) based on what you hear. I was skeptical but determined to try, so I set my radio to AM and slowly moved the dial until I heard a voice. The first thing I heard was not only give the rooms of your house warmth, style, and comfort. I quickly changed the tuner to noise, so I didn’t hear anything else. The voice made me think of a door-to-door salesman and I imagined some odd things for him to be selling. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to try a couple more. By the time I developed my idea, all of my radio segments fit right in (they are in italics) and I wrote an idea for a Sci-Fi Flash Fiction story. Enjoy!

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Horace Bentley-Jaguar IV felt a bit woozy as he adjusted to the three-dimensionally rendered environment. Wiggling his toes felt real, but they wiggled inside shoes made from animal hide buffed to a glaring shine, the kind “wealthy” people had worn on earth during the times of excessive greed and poverty before the original Moon Colonies. He held a colorful beverage with small white and green spheres skewered by a tiny stick floating in the liquid. Wanting the full experience, he brought the glass to his lips. He felt a sharp tingle on his tongue, then a slight burn in his throat, but he didn’t taste or smell anything. Good try, he thought.

With his first immersed step, a warm, confident voice said, “Welcome to your new BAM-AG Home and the best decision you will ever make.” The voice reminded Horace of a strange history lesson he had once seen as a boy. A man in stiff, off-white polyester (a frightening chemical concoction that was banned on the Moon) with large green and blue horizontal and vertical stripes from shoulder to pant hem had arrived at a woman’s door and used a similar voice in an attempt to convince her that she wanted to exchange his pieces of thick, hairy floor covering for pieces of paper.

The voice of the retro-plaid coercer continued, “BAM-AG appreciates that you love your current BAM-AG Home, but with the overcrowding of the Moon Colonies, violent asphyxiation fatalities have surpassed reports of gun violence and oxygen combustion combined. That is a 600% increase over the last six years. If this trend continues, the Moon will be as unlivable as the Earth in only ten short years. But you already know that, don’t you?”

Horace nodded his head enthusiastically, pushing the gyroscopic centering mechanism of the rendering to its limits.

“Lucky for you, the same visionary company that developed The Moon Colonies understood the market and had the ability to teach me their understanding, so I can share it with you. When you purchase a BAM-AG Home you are getting the best that The Conglomerate of Corporate Super-Powers can offer. In other words, your investment is backed by the leaders you trust.”

Horace admired The Logos of The Great Leaders tastefully rendered along the mantel.

“The mind-blowing Future Tech Sensors covering every surface of your home, respond to your physical and emotional needs before you even know them yourself. The intuitive controls not only give the rooms of your house warmth, style and comfort, but also provide you with complete security: regulating oxygen levels to reduce combustion; controlling perimeter armaments in case of threat; and delivering holographic companionship and entertainment.”

The inspiring tones of The BAM-AG March began to play behind the voice bringing a tingle from Horace’s temples to the top of his scalp.

Today is the day that you need to remember those lost–not only those on Earth, but the increasing losses here on the Moon—and plan for your family’s future. Don’t wait! Act today and your BAM-AG Home will be ready when your grandchildren arrive on Mars.”

 

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe Episode Four

The Misadventures of Moxie Sharpe banner for episode four

Episode Four: She Only Tastes What She Wants to Taste

When we left Moxie, she was buying shoes and overheard Nettles making mysterious plans . . .

 

Moxie signed her receipt with her well-practiced illegible scribble and hurried around the side of the tent, but Nettles and his conspirator were nowhere to be seen. She didn’t have an appetite for greasy fair food, so she decided to spend the rest of her break relaxing at her tent. She enjoyed the new spring in her step as she followed the footpath. The trees and underbrush thickened around her until it was almost dark in the mid-day sun. The first couple of tents she passed were obviously new and temporary employees—small tents with no sign of life around them. The further she walked, the larger the tents and more elaborate the living space. The camp across from hers had a full wood dining area with a table, shelves, two walls and a roof.

Moxie’s tent had been set up where Sir Gerald, the missing lute player, had lived every summer for the last eight years. The entrance of her three room, eight-person tent opened to a stone patio with a rock wall with little nooks for candles and outcroppings for coffee cups or bowls. Moxie imagined him spending all of his free time wandering the area alone searching for the perfect large, flat stones to plant in his patio and collecting shiny treasures for the wall. Then she remembered Nettles had said Sir Gerald liked the wenches, so maybe rock gathering walks was how he drew in his conquests. She now saw each of the prettiest rocks as a notch in Sir Gerald’s bedpost.

Moxie dove into her complete mess of a living space. Her bags had exploded, throwing her possessions everywhere, the moment she opened them. A slight smell of musk made her think that Pearl must have stuck her with some old, used tent. She grabbed her motorcycle helmet and put it on, buckling her chin strap just to feel normal. She unburied her leather jacket and hugged its thick leather to her chest before slipping her arms into the silky lining. The smell of motor oil and the grime of the road embraced her like a friendly hug.

Moxie believed that to be the best she had to always push her boundaries. That philosophy had led to many gnarly spills, so now she lived in constant pain. Walking up and down the hills of the fair on uneven ground wasn’t helping. She set up a folding chair on the stone porch and sank into it. The sound of frogs chirping in ecstasy bounced off the trees from a distant unseen pond. She popped a couple Tylenol 3 and washed them down with a swig from her flask. The warm burn finally loosened the knot in her shoulder and she took a deep breath of clean forest air which instantly threw her into a coughing fit.

Finally feeling like herself again, Moxie took another swig from her flask and contemplated the events of the day. Sure, she was a stranger to the ways of the renaissance fair, but this place and these people seemed extra strange. She wondered what Nettles was up to. And the King and Queen were certainly worried about something. Maybe the Queen was the one talking to Nettles by the shoe tent. Or maybe it was Megan. Megan and Ryan were involved somehow. What about the angry jouster? What did the King do to make that actor so angry? Does any of it have to do with Sir Gerald’s disappearance?

Moxie caught herself imagining Sir Gerald looking similar to the angry jouster, flowing blonde mane, perfectly groomed facial hair, muscular arms and those abs. . . . Wait a minute. The jouster was wearing armor. She was fantasizing about the lead singer of Sex With Helmets. He was so hot. And she should be spending this weekend with him at Scandrum. Why Pearl, why?

 

Family of skunks

from hww.ca

Moxie’s thoughts were interrupted by a little grunt that sounded like a tiny pig under her chair. She froze when she saw the black and white critter waddle out only inches from her foot. She imagined she was a statue and held her breath. She had heard many horror stories of the consequences of startling a skunk. This place was bad enough without having to bathe in tomato juice for the next few days. The skunk sniffed and grunted along the little rock wall, circled her chair and waddled back under her tent. As it ducked under the pallets she saw a little family of eyes and noses welcome it home. Oh great, thought Moxie, not only do I have to worry about my fellow musicians, the King and Queen and a violent jouster, I get to live in fear of stepping on a skunk every time I’m near my tent. What if I have to pee in the middle of the night?

Moxie took a long swig from her flask and with a big sigh got up and left her camp. She walked down the path to the bottom of the hill near the frog pond and tromped through the woods to the back of the joust field. Her helmet protected her head and face from branches and leaves and her leather jacket protected her arms from brambles and thorns. She was thinking how well her motorcycle gear prepared her for life in the woods when she opened the door at the back of the castle.

“My lady, hast thou lost thine God given mind?” Nettles shrieked. He ran over to Moxie and tried to yank her helmet off of her head.

She pushed him away with one hand while undoing her chinstrap with the other. She calmly put her helmet under her chair and put her jacket on a trunk along the wall. “Calm yourself Nettles. I walked the back way. Nobody saw me, except a skunk and maybe some frogs.”

Nettles scowled and returned to his seat. “You were supposed to join us earlier as a wandering minstrel. Where were you?”

“I needed to buy shoes and then I needed to set up my camp. I’m sure you understand.”

“Indeed. However, you will be expected on the morrow.”

“Whatever you say Nettles.”

During the second joust, the angry knight was nowhere to be seen. He was replaced by his squire who could barely stay on his horse and yet managed to win his joust. Everyone stuck to their script and their lines were stilted and emotionless. She wondered what happened to the King and Queen. They had been such amazing actors this morning, now they might as well be wooden cut-outs. She also wondered where the angry knight had gone. The show was completely lacking without him.

She planned to ask her fellow musicians after the joust, but they were packed up and out the door as soon as the last note finished resonating. She took Nettles’s brisk “On the morrow” to mean they were done for the day, so she grabbed her helmet from under her chair and hurried out the back of the castle. She happily skipped back along the path she had made through the woods thinking that this gig was actually not that bad. Then she felt a stinging, itching sensation and noticed scratches on her arms. She had forgotten her jacket.

Moxie hurried back the way she had come. She didn’t want to give up a minute of her free time. She didn’t notice that she wasn’t alone until after she put on her jacket. She recognized the King’s voice. He sounded nervous.

“Look. I made a mistake. What do you want me to do?” he said.

She didn’t hear another person, but then something heavy scraped across the floor and she heard thuds and a crash like something or someone falling over.

Then the King begged, “Please, don’t.” She heard a grunt like someone was punched or kicked in the gut and then the King yelled, “Oh God. No.”

Then nothing, complete silence, so Moxie peeked around the wall. She saw the King lying in a heap on the ground and a dark figure at the back wall about to open the door. Before she could duck back behind the partition, the figure turned and stared through her with piercing green eyes. The figure paused. Had he seen her? Was he coming to get her? Moxie didn’t dare to look. She grabbed the lute, holding the body of the instrument to use the tuning pegs as deadly weapons. Just as she was sure the figure would be upon her, she saw Nettles.

“Lady Sharpe, what doest thou?” he said.

Moxie screamed and almost impaled him, but caught herself and put down the lute. She peeked around the corner. No one was there, except the motionless king.

Nettles followed her gaze. “What’s going on in here? Is that King Terrence?”

Nettles hurried forward and checked for a pulse. “Oh the realm is lost. The king is dead.”

“Really Nettles? This is real life. Could you stop?”

Nettles turned sharply. His green eyes bore into her like daggers. “Moxie what have you done?” he said.

 

Is the king dead? Who was the shadowy figure? Is Moxie a suspect? Tune in next time for another heart-pounding, thrill-a-minute misadventure.