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Archive for the ‘short story’ Category


What a horrible blogger I am!  I feel like it has been months since I have written on this blog.  I have spent all of my time writing on my self-absorbed weight loss blog talking about myself and my gastric by-pass surgery.  I have completely neglected this blog and my other writing obligations.  Just a quick note, the surgery went well.  I have lost 71 pounds.  I have been writing quite a bit.

I owe my friend Jeff Miller a review of his book, The Bubble Gum Thief.  I need to post my 2013 writing goals.  I also want to talk about some of the other non-diet-blog writing I have been doing.

In this post, I am going to talk about my 2013 writing goals and about some of my other writing.  You see, my writer’s group asks each of us to create goals for the new year and to be specific.  We cannot just say, “write more,”  we have to set specific goals to show what “writing more” looks like.  The only thing I did not finish last year was to finish my children’s novel.  I am giving myself to Chinese New Year’s though, so I could still make it.  (see what I did there?)

Writing Goals for 2013:

  • Submit writing, short stories, essays, etc to four contests or other publications.
  • Finish children’s novel, which is almost done and hanging in limbo.
  • Write, finish, edit 12 personal essays.
  • Blog on both writing blog and weight loss blog 4 or more times a week.
  • Begin editing children’s novel and submit to my writer’s group for review and revision.
  • Join SCBWI and attend one of their conferences.

Lofty, I know, but I have to set lofty goals to guilt myself into doing something about it.

Current Writing Projects

A couple of the girls in my writer’s group formed a separate group that is dedicated to personal essays and/or creative nonfiction.  I have been attending that group as well.  Because the group is small, about seven of us I think, we are much more demanding about making each other submit their work.  As a result, I have written several personal essays and semi-true short stories.  I also have many more ideas on future personal essays.  I would like to put together a collection of essays.  I am not sure if I will turn it into a book or not, but I first want to get them together and see what I have.

I plan to dedicate my next post to the book review of The Bubble Gum Thief.  I will also post my review on Amazon.

That is pretty much what I have been up to.  I hope to spend more time on this blog and sharing all of my writing ups and downs throughout the year!  Happy writing in 2013!

 

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A few months ago, I submitted a short story to Glimmer Train for their “Family Issues” contest.  For this contest, I took an actual family event from my own life and I created fictional characters, changed a couple of things, and wrote a short story.  I never heard from Glimmer Train and I apparently did not win.  I was disappointed, of course, but rejection is part of the writing process.

I had my memoir writing group look at the story, but not before I had a chance to submit it to the contest.  They gave me great feedback.  They loved the dialogue, enjoyed the interaction between the two kids in the story, but they thought the emotion at the end of the story needed to have a bigger punch.  There were a couple of other comments, but pretty good feedback overall.

I then submitted it to the Arlington Writer’s Group.  I have been with AWG for a couple of  years now.  AWG is a very large writers group.  Almost 200 members, and we can get 30 people plus at any given meeting.  Receiving feedback can sometimes be overwhelming and the conversations can very easily veer off course.

We have worked very hard over the years too keep the feedback process focused and make sure people give a useful critique.  That can be a daunting task for whomever is leading the group when you have 30 or so people giving their opinions. 

I have to say, I’m very lucky with both of my writers groups.  Wonderfully thoughtful people in both groups.

So, last night I had my story critiqued by AWG.  I don’t want to describe it too much as I want to try to get te story published.  Basically, it is a story about one girl’s broken dreams.

Just like my other writers group, AWGers liked the dialogue, the interaction, between the sisters, and the story overall.  But they did pick out some major holes in my plot and made great suggestions.  I have a lot of work to do, but I think the story will be a lot better once I’m done. Then I can enter it into a couple more contests.

On another note, this is what my day has been like.  Everything I do seems to run into some kind of complication.  It’s really too bad too because I would have enjoyed discovering alternate uses for lederhosen while I wait for train schedules to appear on my screen.

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I have been doing a lot of writing recently, which is part of the reason I have not blogged quite as much.  I submitted a short story to the Washington Post Humor contest and I have written another short story.  I have also been working on my children’s novel.

One of my goals was to finish the first draft of my children’s novel before my surgery.  Well, the date for my surgery has now been set for September 26, 2012.  That is a tentative date pending final approval from the insurance company and pending the other stuff I need to get done before surgery (surgery related stuff…not writing goals).

I am mostly done with the first draft, which is good because I only have a month to get that done.  After surgery, I am going to do a complete read through and take notes.  Then the editing process will begin.  Once I’m recovered from surgery, I will be heading up to New Castle, PA to get pictures of the park I use in the novel.

I am excited about finishing the first draft.  It will be good to have that done.  It has been a bit more difficult to write than I thought it would.  Also, there were some changes from the original vision I had for the novel, but I think those ideas only made it better. 

Right now it’s crap and kind of all over the place.  But after I do the editing and more editing and even more editing, I’m sure it will be a little better.   🙂

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Several years ago, while I was living in Phoenix, my sister and I drove from Phoenix to California to site-see.  We had a list of things we wanted to see:

  • The Hollywood Sign
  • Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
  • The Stars on Hollywood Boulevard
  • Disneyland
  • The Duran Duran Star in front of Capitol Records
  • The Pacific Ocean

The Duran Duran Star was really the only thing my sister absolutely had to see.  She was happy to see the rest of the sites, but seeing the Duran Duran star was #1 with a bullet on her list.  It was all she talked about during the drive to California for 5 hours and the entire time we were in LA seeing other things.  She was so excited to have the chance to see the star.  She is a huge Duran Duran fan, but I’m sure that much is clear by now.

Since I was driving, we did the saw Grauman’s theatre and the other stars on Hollywood Boulevard first.  The Duran Duran star was not on Hollywood Boulevard, but in front of Capitol Records on Vine Street which crosses Hollywood Boulevard.

We drove down Hollywood Boulevard towards Vine.  There was a parking lot on the right, so my sister jumped out of the car so that I could park and she ran up Vine Street towards Capitol Records.

I park the car and start walking up Vine Street when I see her walking back towards me with her head hanging low looking sad and dejected.  When we meet up, she says to me, “Let’s just go home!”

“What?  What happened?”  I asked confused.

“There’s construction in front of Capitol Records!”  She tells me barely holding back the tears.  “All I wanted to do today was see the Duran Duran star!”

“Oh my God!  Was it gone?”

Without saying a word, she pulls out her digital camera and shows me this picture:

After that, we drove back to Phoenix in silence.

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I know I have not been writing much of late on this blog.  So what have I been doing with myself?

Mostly, I have been preparing for my upcoming surgery.  The surgery has consumed a lot of my time and mental thought recently.  As a result, I have been doing a lot of blogging on my other website where I discuss my pre-surgery progress and my thought, fears, and hopes for the upcoming big day.

Writing updates:

My short story did not win the Glimmertrain Family Matters contest.  Oh well.

I have started writing another short story, although I am not quite certain what it is about yet, so it is kind of hard to finish.  I had a really great idea for one scene and one other event.  I wrote the scene and the event, now I have to figure out what to do with it.

The idea for the scene has been in my head for a while, but I did not quite know what to do with it.  I did not write it down because I didn’t have a story to go with it. Now I have written the scene and I have one character at least.  If I cannot think of anything to do with it, I may just set it aside and wait for my writer’s group to have a Flaming Fragments session.

WTF is a Flaming Fragment, you ask?

Well, one of the original members of the writer’s group had this great idea for a workshop.  She called it, Fanning Fragments into Flame.  During the workshop, you share bits of a story, an idea for a story, a character that’s been stuck in our heads looking for a story, a scene with nowhere to go, whatever with the rest of the group and see if they can give you an idea or direction.  Sometimes it works.

Well, you cannot expect to put the words “flame” and “fragment” into a title and expect it to stay intact.  Plus, the originator of the session moved back to Canada.  Top that with no one could remember the very long, artistic title of the workshop, so it very quickly became “Flaming Fragments.”

So, I might just set the idea loose during one of those sessions and see if anyone has any good ideas.

The third thing I’ve done is work a little on my youth novel.  I am almost done with it.  I had some huge gaps in the plot and with the last few scenes and I was pretty stressed out about that.  I had a great idea on how to fix it.  I had an epiphany after my sister and her family subjected me to 14 hours of Doctor Who this weekend during the DC power outage.  Either that, or I just went a little crazy.  Perhaps a bit of both.

I have updated the outline and started adding to the plot in my current location.  I still have to go back and insert the idea in several other places.  Mostly, the idea will help me finish the story and bring the kids back home in a semi-believable yet fantastical way.   My original idea was a bit too boring.  If I can pull this idea off, it can be a connecting thread throughout the entire book.

I would like to get the book finished before my surgery.  The surgery will be some time in August.  After the surgery then, I can read through it and see what I need to fix.  Then the re-write process will begin.

Even though this is a kid’s novel, it has been harder to write than I thought it would be.  It’s been good though.  I really had to think through a large scale plot.  I wrote a poem the kids have to figure out.  And I wrote a song.  The poem is short, just a few lines, and it is more of a riddle than a poem.  The song is longer and actually kind of bad, right now.  I don’t imagine that it will ever be a top ten hit or even set to music, but I’d like it to be not bad.  I am going to have to have someone who writes poetry look at it to see what I can improve.  A poet, I am not.

I think the story is fun and I hope that I can do something with it once I’m through writing/editing, etc.  We shall see.

Have a Happy 4th of July!

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It has been some time since I’ve blogged.  A couple of weeks at least.  I would like to say that I have not been posting because I’ve been slaving away at my novel or some other writing project, but that would not be entirely true.  I have done some writing.  Entered a contest.  Worked on another story for another contest.  And jotted out a rough outline for the last part of my youth novel. But that’s not what has been keeping me from blogging.

Excuse #1

I could blame the beautiful weather that has hit the DC area.  I even escaped outside to try to get some writing done today.  See here’s the proof:

I’ve done everything but write today, actually.  I read a bit of that book next to my computer (more on that book later).  Had a great lunch.  Walked around my neighborhood.  Now I’m sitting in front of the library sucking in the sunshine and warm weather that has finally come to the area.  I seem to only go out when it has been raining, so it’s nice to be outside for once.  It seems to rain every Wednesday, which is when I go to my writer’s group.  We even joke about it.  “It’s raining, must be Wednesday!”  or “Oh yuk, it’s raining!”  “Of course it is, it’s Wednesday! Time for writer’s group!”

Excuse #2

Work has been extra stressful recently and I’ve been pretty crabby about it.  And when work is extra stressful…

Excuse #3

I have a tendency to use video games to de-stress…after work of course.  Specifically, games that have loads of destruction, explosions, or pvp.  (that’s player vs player arenas for you non gamer types.)  Yes, the secret is out, I’m a gamer. “But you’re a girl!”  Yes, yes I am and I have a wicked backstab, so watch out.

But these are simply excuses.  The truth is, I could do all of that and find time to seriously focus on writing and blogging.  So, I guess it is time to face the music and admit the real reason I’ve avoided blogging recently.

Fear.  Yes, I said it.  Fear.

Let me explain.  I’ve had another idea for another project recently.  One that is much more personal that will force me to discuss very personal issues that I have been dealing with recently.  Well, more than just recently.  But it has been recently I have been actively working to do something to solve a huge obstacle in my life.  And I have spent a lot of time considering whether or not I should blog about it.

My idea would require that I create a separate blog plus a huge time commitment, the willingness to stay focused, and the promise to be open and honest about what I’m experiencing.  It is my hope that what I am doing will be a profoundly life changing event in a very positive way.  I think it will be.  But it has already proven to be much different than I thought it would be.

I will still be doing this blog 2-3 times per week as I promised at the beginning of the year.  I will probably link the blogs.  I have not worked out all of the details yet, but I will probably be getting it started this weekend.  So, stay tuned.

And since my laptop is not solar powered, I have to regrettably find my way to an outlet, which is probably inside.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!  🙂

 

 

 

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This weekend I downloaded on iTunes and watched the movie Melancholia.  I love odd movies and this movie seemed to fit the bill.  I opted to purchase the movie outright instead of renting it.  I have rented movies from iTunes before only to purchase the movie a couple of days later.  I just knew that I would like this movie, so I figured why waste the money, just purchase it now.  My sister tells people that the longer, stranger, and boringer the movie is, the more likely it is I will love it.  In fact, if there is any way a movie can be made so it is like watching an historical documentary, omg I love it!

Well, OK maybe that’s not entirely true, but I do love a variety of movies.

So, what did I think of Melancholia?

 

Let’s just say I should have rented it.  What went wrong you ask?  The visuals were stunning.  The storyline was potentially fascinating, giant planet (Melancholia)  headed towards earth, supposedly only to do a fly-by and not crash into earth, we promise, pinky-swear, right hand up to God.  Insert compelling cast of characters and watch their lives unravel as the clock ticks down to the inevitable outcome and bam you have a hit.  Potentially awesome movie.  Except it wasn’t.

Why didn’t it live up to the hype?  Characters.  The creators of this movie took a potential win and threw it into the path of Melancholia by creating a host of characters I simply could not care about.  And that is supremely disappointing because I was disposed to love this movie.  Instead I found myself praying Melancholia would smash into Earth just so the movie would end.

My brother disagrees with me and thinks it was a great character study about the two sisters.  The one who spent the movie as the solid, stable sister holding the whole family together who falls apart at the end versus the crazy sister who pulls it all together at the end.  Yeah, that could be interesting if I cared enough about the two sisters to even remember their names for this post.

Which brings me to the point of my post.  Creating believable characters that people can care about.  I’m not talking about making people love your characters, because let’s face it, there are a lot of pretty unlikeable characters in literature, movies and TV.

When writing characters, however, you have to give your readers something to hold onto to, that ephemeral quality that your readers can identify with that draws them into the story.  Generally, this is easy to do with protagonists.  For example, Harry Potter, the lonely orphan child in the cupboard under the stairs, treated badly by his Aunt, Uncle and cousin, who longed for a better life with the loving parents he never knew who also happens to be the greatest wizard the world will ever know.  Compelling right?  I suppose a lesser author could have mucked that up, but thankfully, on the 7th day, God created JK Rowling.

But just as important as creating great protagonists, an author must create a believable, complex antagonist that we can love to hate.  Let’s face it.  Where would Harry be without he-who-must-not-be-named aka Voldemort.

Let me give you two examples of compelling antagonists that I think have that “it” factor that can help draw the reader in and add a level of depth to your story.

Voldemort – Harry Potter Books

Voldemort is the quintessential evil bad guy, but not just because he did evil things.  Yes, he did do bad things.  He killed Harry’s parents and tried to destroy the wizarding world all the while plotting Harry’s demise.  Evil, evil man, yes.

But what makes Voldemort a great antagonist is his humanity.  All of the things we can identify with in Harry also exist in Voldemort.  Like Harry, he was an orphan child, alone in the world, hoping for a better future.  Like Harry, he finds out that he is special because he can do magic.  Like Harry, he can speak to snakes.  Like Harry, he was the greatest wizard of his day.  Harry even identifies with Voldemort on a certain level and struggles with his own identity trying to figure out how he could have so much in common with his nemesis.  He struggles to grasp how they can have such similarities and yet be so different.  What makes Harry good versus what makes Voldemort evil?  Who is to say Harry won’t end up going down the same path?

Voldemort is great not because he helps Harry overcome evil in the world, but because he helps Harry overcome the evil inside himself.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter – Silence of the Lambs

Do I really need to say anything about him?  Creepy, genius, eats his victims, strange moral center, a truly scary person.  Why do we like him so much?  Even now, just thinking about him, my skin is crawling.

Dr. Lecter is intelligent and refined.  He speaks calmly and slowly, looking you directly in the eye.  He studied psychiatry and thus knows human behavior and how to manipulate people.  He knows what he does and what he says repulses and frightens you, but his behavior draws you in and disarms you nonetheless.  He treats you with respect, so you are inclined to offer the same respect to him.  And then he calmly and brutally kills you and eats your liver with a side of fava beans a nice chianti.

This makes him one of the scariest characters in literature and the movies.  But what really makes him a great antagonist is that he can be all these things and show deference and respect to Clarrise Starling.  He challenges her to think about the evidence in a major unsolved string of murders and helps her catch the killer.  All the while, he is able to compel her to share very intimate details of her psyche.  Nonetheless, when he escapes custody, Clarrise is certain he will not come after her because, as she says, “he would consider that rude.”  And he confirms this by telling her he does not “plan to pay her a visit because the world is more interesting with her in it.”

So the scariest person you have ever met, who has managed to get inside your head and learn what makes you tick, and  has let you know what he is capable of doing to you is walking the streets free as a can be but  says he respects you enough to leave you alone.  I would never sleep again.  In fact, after writing this, I might not sleep tonight.

 

It is vitally important to make sure your readers or viewers care about your characters.  The characters are why we read the story, or see the movie.  The characters tell the story.  The characters help us care about your story.  It is through the eyes of your characters that we sometimes find out something about our own lives.  They don’t always have to be likable, but I think they always need to be great.

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