Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Show don’t tell.

We’re all guilty of this. We’ve all done this and some of the more famous writers out there are some of the biggest offenders, but they can get away with it and we can’t.

Additionally, we’ve also all heard this saying before, but what does it mean exactly?

What is showing? What is telling? Is there are time where telling is appropriate? All sorts of questions can arise from one little piece of feedback.

Showing is taking the reader step by step through the scene. Recently, I read this line in a bit of prose: “He also felt the increased desire to have sex.” That is telling. You just told the reader this and expect the reader to go with it.

Showing would be writing about the signals from “he’s” body and letting “he” come to the conclusion that his libido was higher or stronger than normal. To be fair, the writer may not have deemed this to be important enough to show at this point in their story. Also, to be fair, this wasn’t in a story per se. It serves well for an example to use in this post.

But, aren’t there times were telling is appropriate?

Sure, not every little detail in a story is important. Sometimes back story is best handled as telling. Little things the reader must know to understand the significance of what you are currently showing. However, there are times where a flashback would better serve than just telling the back story. Flashbacks must be well timed because they inherently tamper with the flow and any suspense you have created with the currently timeline of the story.

Here’s a sample (let’s hope I don’t screw this up.)


Alvaro sat on a stump clapping his hands and tapping his feet. The heat from the bon fire kept the chill of night safely away. Dinner sat light and comfortable on his stomach. The bathtub gin, however, burned and scraped with every swallow.

Not that anyone could tell that by the way Josiah and Alis tossed it back. Alvaro laughed as the two finished their second bottle of rotgut and leaned on each other when they danced around the fire. They seemed to be tripping over each other and things that only their feet could find.

Josiah screamed to the air, “A long time ago, way back in history, when all there was to drink was nothing but cups of tea…”

Alis, with equal gusto, chimed in and together they slurred their way through the first verse. Josiah spun in a circle flinging his arms out and knocking Alis in the back of the head. Alis lunged to swing at Josiah and stumbled across a log that, Alvaro was certain she would later claim, just “spontaneously” appeared near her feet. Josiah, still singing, and Alis, singing again, both kicked the log.

Alvaro crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head. Apparently, that log needed to die for attacking Alis. Alvaro had only seen Josiah like this once before. That night led to some seriously sloppy groping which he hoped wasn’t a sign of Josiah’s best work.

Kendrick slapped his hand between Alvaro’s shoulder blades and yanked the blond into a jerky sway. “For five short seconds remember Charlie Mopps!” The sparkle in Kendrick’s blue eyes rivaled the light from the fire.

Alvaro grinned. This was certainly Kendrick’s element wasn’t it? Laughing, drinking, singing—revelry. Kendrick who’d consumed more than his fair share of the firewater, practically bellowed through the song. Alvaro’s head bounced from side to side hard enough to make him wonder if it would leave his shoulders.

Josiah swung by Alvaro and pointed a finger in the blond’s face. “One…two…three… four…five…” His native Irish accent clung to his words rendering the vowels thick and heavy. He spun around and tripped over his own feet. Falling backward into Alvaro’s lap, he continued singing, “He might have been an admiral, a sultan or a king…”

Utterly surrounded by fools, Alvaro laughed and couldn’t think of a better place to be.

There’s a mixture of telling and showing in this snippet, but without telling you that anyone was drunk, you should at least see that Alis and Josiah are. The important part of this scene is not the drinking, but Alvaro’s sense of belonging. Of course that might not be as powerful as it should be without knowing the full context.

If I’d done a full flashback to the groping, which would have been fun to write, it would have messed with the whole scene instead of enhancing it. As it is, I think it’s more humorous for the reader to imagine drunken groping from a man who makes a point of trying to convince himself that he isn’t smitten with Alvaro.

Going on…

Telling is also appropriate if you are skipping time. Let’s say your fic involves two roommates. You just finished showing us a fierce fight and you need to progress the plot. Do you have to write in real time? Nope. A lot of readers don’t even like that. So, something along the lines off…


For the next two days a stifling air claimed the air. They passed each other in the hallways with wavering civility. They ate dinner in silence. Come the third day…


That’s assuming, of course, that the third day is when you plan on showing again.

The difficult part is that writers tend to not realize it when they are telling and showing. This goes under the heading of rushing. Take your time and lead the reader through your story letting them gaze upon the wonderful world you have created.

Till next time!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Writer, thy title is Researcher.

We are only human and we can’t do it all. We can’t take a year off from writing to work whatever job our main characters will be working. We can’t foster the same hobbies and develop the same expertise as all of our characters.

So, research fills in the gaps of our knowledge. As a m/m erotica writer, one might think I’d have more gaps in my knowledge than any other writer. I’m not sure this is true. There are very few things in bed that men can do that I can’t do. I can’t receive a prostate massage, but I have a g-spot. I can’t receive a blow job per se, but I can receive oral sex. When we’re all in the moment, do we really compartmentalize the feelings and sensations or do we look back on it and think, “Fuck, that was good.”

Although I do an immense amount of research for all of my stores even the really short ones, “About to Sin” is giving me the most doubt. I feel I have the most gaps of experience with that story.

What kind of struggle do gay priests have especially with the new legislation (that hasn’t been passed yet in my story) that prohibits priests with “deep seated” homosexual feelings? I can know what it feels like to be an outsider. I can know what it’s like to not be comfortable with something within yourself. But, I really wanted to hear from a gay priest. I wanted to know their story in their words about what it’s like to so strongly believe in something that considers you “objectively disordered.”

Some researchers estimate that as much as 30-50% of Catholic priests (and seminarians) are gay. There are articles all over the place that demonize the “gay priest problem”, want to link all gay priests to pedophilia and even a few that cite anonymous gay priests talking about how seminaries are hot beds for homosexual men and activities. I even read a few articles about gay priests who completely embrace their vows of celibacy and gave no indication that it might be a struggle for them.

All that is fine and well, but not the research I need.

Finally, real early this morning I found what I needed. I found an article written by a former priest who ended up leaving the priesthood after he broke his vow of celibacy (with an adult male. Sad that I have to specify that.) and came to terms with his sexuality. The article was full of passion. It touched on all of the issues that I needed to hear someone talk about. Beautiful and real in its presentation. Poignant and heartbreaking in the results. Perfect.

I felt so moved by this article (and here’s where my research background kicked in) that I tracked down the former priest and e-mailed him thanking him for the article and telling him how much it moved me. He e-mailed me back within a few hours. If I were a braver writer, I might pin him down and try to ask specific questions, but I really can’t think of anything that his article didn’t cover. I’m keeping his e-mail address just in case. I don’t expect him to take time out of his busy day (he’s now running a business) to answer questions from someone like me, but just in case I really, really, really need to ask him something, I can ask. He may not answer, but I can ask.

Never in my life did I think a straight pagan girl would need to contact a gay former Catholic priest for research dealing with an erotic story.

Ain’t life something?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Please don’t. Just don’t.

A recently I’ve had requests for my physical address so that people can send me cards. I never really know how to handle this issue. I don’t really know some of the people who have asked me. They’re readers of my stuff and, well, I’m sure most of them are sane. Others are closer net friends that I know are the good kind of crazy, but…well…still…

Heavy sigh.

Please don’t mail me Christmas cards, birthday cards or New Years cards or anything like that. Please. I appreciate the sentiment and I appreciate the beauty of the cards, but here’s what happens.

Everyone else in the world is 10 gazzillion times more organized than I am. I will forget about all of these holidays until BLAM they’re right on top of me. So, now I have all of these expensive cards around me and a huge guilt trip because my disorganized self couldn’t mail you a card. First, I have a mother; I don’t need more guilt in my life. But, that’s not the worst of it.

The worst of it is that I’ll spend the next umpteeth months avoiding you because I’ll spend any conversations with you thinking, “I didn’t mail them a card. They mailed me a card and I didn’t mail them one. How did that make them feel?” I’ll beat myself up over my organizational skills and absent mindedness all the while avoiding you.

I’m also trying to declutter my life so that maybe I’ll be organized enough find myself one day, so this means I feel doubly guilty when I have to throw away the card.

So, please, save the stamp, save the money, save the trip to the store and save the gas to the post office. Please. I beg you.

But, I understand that some people feel like they must send something. They must. They have to. It’s a compulsion for them.

All right, how about a compromise? Send e-cards if you must send one. They’re cheap, easy on the environment, require no trips to the store or post office and really easy on my conscience. Why is that? If I log in to my computer on Christmas day (or whatever holiday) and you’ve sent me an e-card, I can send you one right back that very day. No guilt. No problem.

They’re nice. They have a huge collection and you can personalize them. Hell, even American Greetings does ecards now. These are great for you super organized people because you can schedule your cards in advance while slackers like me can send them that day.

So if you must send me a card, send me an e-card. Please. Pretty please with sexy men on top?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Five writing mistakes I’ve read recently.

I’m not the world’s best writer and I still have a lot of learning to do, but I’d like to pass along some observations.

On one of the writing forums I haunt we’ve been having a discussion about the worst mistakes an erotic writer can make. The biggest mistakes in their eyes are associated with language choices. The verbiage of the piece. Oh sure we all bitch about clichéd storylines, but what makes us snicker at the wrong places and roll our eyes at the wrong time is the author’s word choices.

Since that discussion, I’ve been paying attention to my reactions while I’ve been reading. I’ve read over my older stuff and I see glaring mistakes from verbiage to style and I hope I never make those mistakes again. I’m sure you all have seen those mistakes and have been too polite to mention them.

Here are some recent mistakes that I’ve read. I will not name any names.

Mistake one: Bad euphemisms for penis.

My editor, Tami, rode my ass for not wanting to use a word other than cock for cock. I relented and put in a few dicks and pricks to make her happy and I see now that I was overusing the word cock. She was right and I was wrong. When you write male/male and you have two or more cocks in a lemon it’s really hard to come up with non-redundant ways of referring to the penis.

So, here’s my hierarchy for penis words. I use cock the most. I think it’s a strong word and conjures a great image. Someone who lives on a farm might disagree. Dick is my first fallback work. Prick is my third. I’ll also use erection, shaft, and arousal. At one time I would use “sex” and “member” those now feel stifled to me which would work great if you are writing from a POV that is a bit stifled when it comes to sex. “Rod” and “hard-on” can also work with the right character. I fight to not use penis unless it is a clinical situation. I'll think the word penis looks silly and sounds silly. I don’t find it erotic at all.

Additionally the verbiage should match the characters. If you have a character who would use “rod” then go for it. I have one fic with a very innocent bottom and the word cock in his POV isn’t really appropriate. I have used “down there” for him. If it fits the character then fine. Just be mindful of your choices. If you break the norm make sure you know what you’re doing.

Mistake two: Be mindful of the image your metaphors may conjure.

I’m trying to figure out how to explain this without using the example from the fic and I cannot. In one fic a partner was referred to as being as flexible as Gumby. Now, right in the middle of a sex scene I’m seeing the sexy top doing Gumby. Literally, Gumby. The bottom turned into Gumby with the green feet in the air and everything.

Another example was the action of a giving a blowjob being likened to playing a harmonica. All of a sudden the cock became a harmonica in my mind. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the technique preceding that simile would have been the lips along the shaft thing. But this was a full blowjob with the mouth around the cock. That’s not even how a harmonica is played.

In the event that you are the author of the above fic, please know that I enjoyed the fic. I thought you did a good job with the exception of those two points and the fic felt a little rushed.

Mistake three: Interjection of Author’s notes.

Before anyone calls me a hypocrite, I will admit to having done this. I’m sorry that I did. As a reader it pulls me out of the story and messes with the rhythm and pace the author has set. To make it worse, the author that did this did an excellent job of writing and the notes were not necessary at all. If you think something needs to be further explained then write it so that it is fully explained. If you’re writing properly such notes are not needed.

Mistake Four: Language.

If your fic is primarily in English assume that’s the only language the reader knows.

If you absolutely positively must use Japanese or some other language other than English in your English language fic (which I really wish you wouldn’t) make sure the setting of the foreign words lets the reader know what you are saying. If you have to give a vocab lesson or mini-dictionary before your fic, please, seriously think about not using that many foreign words. The reader will not remember the meanings. I recently read a fic that I positively love and it had a few Japanese words in it. Luckily, I knew most of them. But one chapter title is in Japanese and I haven’t a clue as to what it means. That chapter title is also a line in the fic later on. I know it’s supposed to be important, but it’s missed on me. I’m sure others missed it too.

As writers we love language and our vocabulary tends to be larger than “ordinary” people. Please remember that stories are not a place for you to showcase your vocabulary (English, Japanese, Spanish or otherwise), but a place for you to communicate your story. If the reader cannot understand what you are saying, then that communication is lost.

Of course, we all will send readers to the dictionary a few times. That’s part of the beauty of reading and writing. But, keep this in mind. Studies have shown that when someone doesn’t know the definition of a word and cannot devise the meaning of the word, then they tune out the next five words. (On average five.) So, by using that three-dollar word (or foreign language word) you’ve actually lost the reader for six words. That’s a sentence. If that’s a thesis sentence then the reader just lost the meaning of the paragraph. Scary.

I’m guilty of this. I particularly enjoy archaic words, but I now realize that it hurts my writing. I’m trying to use less of them and explain them better in context better. We’ll see how that goes, huh?

Mistake five: Rushing.

Take your time. Tell your story. So many fics are damaged by rushing. If you’re writing professional stuff and have a strict word count then you have to get real creative and write properly without rushing. If you’re a fanfic writer or working on an ebook—take your time. Take the reader there with you. You have me as a captive audience. If I’m still reading then I am willing to let you tell me what you need to tell me. Make me cringe with the characters. Make me pant with sex scenes. Make me worry over the angst. In short, make me believe it. It’s your world. You’re god, but I still have to be converted.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Romantic Letters

Romance and erotica tend to go hand in hand. It’s possible to have erotica without the romance, but even dark erotica, non-happy-ever-after, and horror erotica tend to have a romantic sub-plot.

While surfing for writing mojo juice, I stumbled across this site.

Romance For Everyone

This site is plum full of plotbunnies waiting to be born.

They even have Romantic Love Letters to help jump start the growth of the plotbunny.

I’ve often wondered about writing a book as a series of love letters. I even have it started on my machine. It actually starts with what seems like the end of the relationship, but the letters bring the lovers back together.

The written word is very powerful. And, I think, people are a bit bolder with what they’d write to loved one even if they don’t have the nerve to say it to their lover’s face.

To be honest, I think the site could work on the quality of the letters a bit. I don’t think these are written by writers, maybe they’re from Joe Schmoe? Maybe after they grow a bit, the site will become another market for us?

However this one You Are

Is beautiful. The simplicity is powerful. Can you imagine that being dropped by a secret admirer?

Anyways, I hope you find the site as interesting as I have.

Edit: Ooo... I can just imagine Alvaro writing a letter to Josiah.

Dearest Josiah,

I’ve been by your side for centuries. As you’ve spent your days and nights fretting over Kendrick and his worries, I’ve fretted over you. You’ve spent your life fighting for those who can’t hold their own sword. You’ve wrapped yourself in this idyllic notion of having to be the savior—Kendrick’s savior.

Now that Byron is back, I can’t imagine how much you’re hurting. The pain of seeing what you crave step further and further away puts an ache in your chest that you believe will never fade. Knowing that someone else holds what you long to hold must be unbearable.

I know it’s not much consolation, but you are still loved and adored. The sunlight in your auburn hair steals my breath. Your green eyes rival the most precious treasures. In the dead of winter the awe inspiring beauty of a fall forest is just a few feet away from me.

I watch you sleep mesmerized by the peace on your face. What is this spell you have cast upon me? What is it about you that penetrates my very core and makes me yearn for your touch?

It breaks my heart knowing that you’re hurting. Your pain twists in my chest and wrenches my being. You’ve made it clear that we are to be nothing more than friends. Even though that’s a bitter pill to swallow, I can live with it. As long as I have you in my life, I’m happy. I wouldn’t trade the years of laughter and friendship with you for anything. At times, I’m saddened by the turn of my heart. You know my feelings for you and that must make you uncomfortable.

I wish I could turn off my feelings for you and be the friend you need right now. I shall do my best, but I fear it is impossible. If it’s all right with you, I would very much like to continue to love you from afar.



And just after writing that, he’d lose the nerve to deliver it. After all, a letter like that doesn’t seem to be his best effort as being a friend. And OF COURSE Josiah would find the balled up letter. LOL!

Shh…don’t wake the beast…

I think my writing mojo came back at 5:30 this morning. No one move. We might scare it away.

I got it back via yaoi. Ah, yaoi, how much do I love thee? Sure 75% of the stories are the same tired storylines we’ve all come to love and hate, but there’s something special about pretty men. Mmm….pretty men.

Note: I said “pretty” men. Not “handsome” men. Yaoi has “pretty” men. Sometimes painfully beautiful in ways that could never mimic reality. It’s pure fantasy through and through, but I gobble it up. And angst! OMG! Every single story contains angst even if the mangaka has to been over backwards to create it.

I don’t mind. Sure, the rare jewel that has an engaging story stands way above the rest, but…but…they’re so PRETTY!

Yaoi. My anti-block! XD

A sad side-effect of being a writer.

Finally! Someone got it right! Please, please, please let this spread!

In an effort to cut down on the distractions available to me, I stopped watching TV about 3 or 4 years ago. Since I’m a writer, I work from home. So, all of my pop culture and news information comes from the net. Not the most engaging format. *a-hem*

This also means that when I take my eyes off the screen, I stop being informed.

CBS has started putting some of its shows online for people like me. Do you have any idea how excited I was to watch a commercial again? NBC is giving us a teeny tiny amount of programming. I’m also fortunate that during the times of hurricanes one of my local news stations will do a web simulcast.

However, I don’t get to listen to the radio.

Maybe, come Jan 25th that might change. WSCR 670 The Score is hooking up with Nology Interactive Nology Interactive - Web Design, Hosting & IT servicesto bring the web a full day of radio broadcasting! Real radio broadcasting not that web stuff that doesn't have DJ's, news or anything like that. I'd LOVE to get some of my local stations on the web!

If this works, if this gets popular, I’ll be able to feel connected to my society again! I’ll be able to turn on the radio (Yes, I don’t own an actual radio either. No, I’m not from an Amish family) and do the dishes. Sometimes I feel extremely isolated and things like this carry a tremendous amount of potential.

So! Bravo to WSXR 670 The Score and Nology Interactive for all of your hard work and ingenuity! May your genius spread throughout the world!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Stop the Block!

One of the things I do when I feel a bit blocked with my writing, is that I visit my finished stuff. I will “fanfic” my own characters. Yeah, I know it’s cheesy, but sometimes working with familiar characters can help get the juices flowing.

The sad part is that this recent block isn’t from a lack of ideas it’s because I’ve been ill. I can’t seem to hold the concentration to carry a full story.

So, here’s a cute scene with Alvaro and Josiah (my favorite play couple) from “Full Circle.” I hope you like it and I hope it gets my mojo back and I can return to working on “About to Sin.”

“Soaked Socks.”

It was hot. It was that sticky kind of hot that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The sun, directly overhead, burned bright and strong. Standing in the shade of the church, Josiah watched Alvaro by the waterfall basin.

Alvaro had his long blond hair up in a high ponytail fully exposing his neck. His pointless glasses sat carefully folded on a rock next to him. He wore a white t-shirt and a pair of blue shorts that swallowed him. Bending over, he gave Josiah an excellent view of his ass. After dipping a rag into the clear water, Alvaro wrung it out over his head. Water sparkled in the light as it fell to his face.

Again and again he soaked himself.

Josiah should be working, but he couldn't pull his eyes away. Normally, he gave his advanced sword fighting lesson to the humans at this time, but something about water running down Alvaro's chest wouldn't release him.

After one more soaking, Alvaro shook his head and put on his glasses. Josiah smirked. The t-shirt clung to Alvaro's chest and, in a few spots, hinted at the blond's skin tone. The shorts, heavy with water, sagged showing a little too much of Alvaro's hips. His legs poked out from under the shorts and the shading of his calf muscles directed the water to his socks. Oh, isn't that cute? Little lumps of white and wet cotton around his ankles.

He'd never noticed before, but Alvaro had nice legs. Especially when they were wet. Those soaked socks around Alvaro's ankles kept Josiah's attention. The slouch socks dwarfed Alvaro's ankles and Josiah was willing to bet those ankles would fit perfectly in his hands. For a brief moment, in his mind's eye, he saw his hand curled around one of those adorable ankles. Kissing his way up Alvaro's leg, he'd watch—without looking like we was watching—the blond shift the sheets to cover his "naughty bits." A coy blush spread across Alvaro's cheeks. Water from the sock seeped between Josiah's fingers and ran down the back of his hand.

Alis walked by, sighed and rolled her eyes.

"What?" Not completely pulled from his fantasy, Josiah addressed her, but didn't take his eyes off the blond vampire.

"Admit it already." Alis turned and put her hands on her hips.

"I don't have anything to admit." He ripped his eyes from Alvaro and looked at her. See, he could stop looking any time he wanted to.

"Yes, you do."

"No, I don’t." He rolled his eyes. "I don't have a thing for him."

Alis hiked an eyebrow. "Just how did you know I was talking about that?"

Josiah felt the blood leave his face. Damn it. "I'm just waiting for him to be done. So I can cool off."

"Yeah, right, you keep thinking that." She turned around and started walking away. "Eventually someone will come along and not take him for granted. Until then, you just keep wasting your time…" She walked out ear shot. The way her arms were moving let Josiah know she was still talking.

Whatever. When it came to bows and arrows, Alis was the person to talk to. When it came to sword fighting, she made a fine opponent. When it came to…Josiah looked around empty basin. Seeking Alvaro—the vacant path up the hill to the village jeered at him. Every where he looked pushed the same emptiness upon him. Where the hell did he go?


Josiah jumped about three feet off the ground. He screamed and his mouth dropped open. With his heart racing, he turned around and saw Alvaro doubled over laughing. The loose blond curls around Alvaro's face dripped and shook with each guffaw.

"I think," Alvaro took in a deep breath, "that makes us 398 to 275, my favor." He pressed his fingers to his mouth and snickered.

"No, no, no," Josiah waved a finger through the air trying to physically erase the score. "You had 398 points last time." His heart pounded in his chest—from the startle or the company, Josiah wasn't sure.

"Oh dear, I did?" Alvaro nibbled his bottom lip. "So that makes this time 168 to 123, my favor."

"How come when you tell the score, it's always you winning?"

Alvaro put his hands on his hips and gave Josiah a long look. "The same reason why you are the winner when you give the score."

Josiah's eyes traveled down Alvaro's body. The pink of Alvaro's nipples tried to sneak through the shirt. Water still dripped from his shorts and those adorable socks were much cuter close up. "You're wet." Josiah's blood rang in his ears. His fingers felt especially dry.

Alvaro nodded. "Yes, it's a nice way to cool off." He handed the rag to Josiah. "Do you want to give it a try?"

"Sure." Josiah took the rag.

Alvaro started walking toward the path up the hill. "Should I tell your students that you'll be delayed?"

"Yeah, thanks." What did Alis mean by "taking him for granted?" Josiah scratched his head and cleared his throat. "Alvaro?"

Alvaro turned around on the dirt path. His pony tail swung around and clung to his neck. "Yes."

The light glinted of Alvaro's glasses striking Josiah mute. You have cute legs. You have cute legs. You. Have. Cute. Legs. Would that have been so hard to say? Silently, he shook his head and walked toward the basin. It was, apparently, that difficult to say.

Alvaro sighed and continued up the hill.

He didn't have a thing for Alvaro. Damn it. He couldn't have a thing for Alvaro. How foolish would it make him look to admit, after centuries of rejecting the blond, that now he felt something for Alvaro? Josiah dunked the rag under the water and saw the dry outline of where the blond's feet once stood. He did not have a thing for Alvaro, but he still felt incredibly foolish.

Oh, so that’s how they do it.

I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but I’ve been wondering how writer’s do those promo things. Ya know those mailers that they do. Little contests and things get mailed to a lucky reader.

I’m not too keen on Joe Schmoe reader knowing my address, so I figured I’d have to use a PO box or something. But, PO boxes can’t receive Fed Ex stuff of UPS packages. I’ve already had readers send me gifts that way. (The few I’ve gotten to know well enough to trust with my address.)

I just realized they use mail drops. Yeah, yeah, anyone who’s watched more than three episodes of Law and Order has heard of those. But, there are legit uses for these things. Mail drops can give you a PO address or a physical address; therefore, they meet all mailing needs.

According to this website…

remailing service

They’re also cheaper than PO boxes. Now, I know how to do it and I figured it out all by myself. XD

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Complaning about medical care -- not writing related.

I’m never writing about a doctor again. Never. I swear it. I’m not doing it again.

Since I started the installment of “About to Sin” that takes place in the clinic, I’ve spent more time in the hospital that I have in the past 3 years combined. Between myself and my father-in-law, the staff now recognizes me.

In less than a month, we’ve had a me collapsing in the kitchen, found out I need to go in for a biopsy, my father-in-law has fallen, needed a hole drilled in his head and has been in and out of ICU.

Last night, once again, I spent the night in the ER and discharged with little more of a shrug and, “We don’t get many serious gyn problems here. Make sure you keep your follow up appointment.”


Ya know, it think there should be a law that doctors can’t drop bombs on your lap unless they’re going to do some kind of test to see if you actually have that bomb. The first time I went into the hospital the ER doc told me that one of my conditions, coupled with one of my symptoms could lead to another condition. Did they do a test or any kind to see if I have that other condition? Nope. Not a one. So, I get online and find out this potential condition has no cure. It is terminal. It’s a long lasting terminal thing, but terminal nonetheless unless I get a transplant.


I have the second rarest blood type in the world. I’m not expecting a transplant and even thinking along those lines seems like needless worry. They didn’t do any tests to see if my “could have” is or isn’t “do have.” Every single one of us out there “could have” something. All of us. We’re all mortal something has to take us out, right?

And to hell with what I might have, what about what we all know I do have? Couldn’t they do the biopsy at the hospital? Ya know the last time I had this biopsy it was under general anesthesia and at that very hospital.

So, doctors of the world, instead of telling someone they MIGHT have a few terminal diseases, do ya think you could run a few tests before you send them home?

Your future patients will appreciate it.

Location is everything.

Ok, maybe when you’re buying a house location is a little more important than in a story, but the setting is still extremely important.

My husband just put down a book and refuses to read anymore because the author jacked up the location so badly. He wrote about a city near us and a specific location in that city and he couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. He created interstates that don’t exist. He described things that aren’t there. He even made mention of something that hasn’t been in existence for over 20 years as current.

One could say that if the story were stronger then the location inconsistencies would be a minor matter, but I digress.

So what’s an author to do? Stick to those locations that everyone knows and the name alone gives you the tone? NYC, Miami, San Francisco and others carry with them images that nearly every reader will share.

What if you want to do a story that takes place with Jaialdi festival in Boise, Idaho?
Jaialdi Fesitval

Unless you have the money to go out there, how can you get to know the area and give some sense of authenticity to your writing?

We have several tools at our fingertips. Home buying guides can give you a sense of local architecture, home prices, and even locations. Idaho real estate

Official city sites can give you a wealth of information too.

Check monster and a few other boards to see what jobs are open in Boise. That will give you an idea of what forms the base of their economy, the type of education that’s common and all sorts of things.

Don’t forget salary converters to give you perspective on salaries and cost of living.
Salary Converter

Now, we’re writers so we need to put some teeth into our stories. What’s the crime like in Boise? Crime wave stories in places like NYC or DC seem very common. Is murder even newsworthy in NYC anymore?

According to this site, property crimes are so rare in Boise that the cops keep a list by neighborhood and it’s a SHORT list.

Property Crime

That’s something to keep in mind.

Here’s a site that lists more information.

Murder would be a huge story in Boise. In 2004 there weren’t any. None.

Damn. Maybe I should move there. Looking at these statistics, Boise has hardly any crime.

Hmm…maybe a crime story would be too much of a stretch? We don’t want to compromise the willing suspension of disbelief too much.

Maybe sweet romance story would be more befitting Boise.

The net can also give you demographic information on the city of your choice.

Here’s the breakdown of one of the zip codes in Boise.

Gen info

Here’s some information on air quality and stuff.

Air and water quality, etc

Christ! How good do they have it in Boise!? Air quality and water quality are both excellent.

I have beaches around me that have been closed by the EPA. Maybe I really do need to think about moving. Sheesh!

You can even get information about religions in Boise.


Ok, so what do all these stats mean to writers? Well, you certainly don’t want to have a sexy festival attendee murdered by someone who wants revenge because they have some freaky disease from bad air quality.

Geez…what’s left to write about?

Plenty. Even in crime-free, excellent water quality places, people fall in love. Romance happens everywhere and with a few quick searches for pics around Boise I imagine love happens a lot there. It’s beautiful!

Job growth is at 36 percent. 36?!?! Geez… ya can’t even do the down on your luck looking for a job story. Dang, Boise has everything. I’m jealous.

This particular zip code as an avg income of 55k. So, these are middle-class people. Which means having a character who lines his closet with Versace would be very unusual.

So, according to this information our festival attendees would be well-educated, probably never knew anyone who knew anyone who was murdered, and middle class. Oh! 15 percent of this particular Boise zip code are LDS.

There’s the story.

Nice, sweet LDS young man goes to the festival and meets a man who makes him question what he thought he knew about himself. Just imagine the angst! This could be juicy!

On the other hand, who else wants to move to Boise now?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Define "Know".

As writers we do a lot of things to get to know our subject matter. We call it research. For some books that might mean delving into the case files of serial killers, for other books that might mean learning about scuba diving and in some cases that might mean watching a few live action flicks just to make sure the position in our heads is physically possible.

Don’t look at me like that. That’s bona fide research.

It is.

Damn it.

There are some things we will never understand and some mysteries will be held by those who actually do the things we write about. Case in point, only a serial killer will really know what drives them to kill and how they feel after.

I think the same is true with the gay culture. I write about gay men and no matter how I live my life or what I do in my life, I will never be a gay man. I recall my faghag days and try to pull upon that, but that would force most of my stories to be about drag queens. I can call my friends and talk to them. I can listen to their coming out stories and their reasons for not coming out. I can go to Lambda books stores and observe the customers. All of that will give me some tangible things to use in my writing.

It does not make me a part of gay culture. I will forever be on the outside looking in. That’s not so bad, really.

As I stand on the outside of the rainbow circle, I come to learn things. I come to see these men and women for what they are—people. Just people. People with the same fears, desires and needs as anyone else. They’re not so different. They worry about their kids, jobs and lives. They’re just people like anyone else.

People—I know. Fears—I know. I can write this. I may not know the nitty gritty details of the hankie code. I may not fully understand how a drag queen feels when the final stroke of make up is put on. I may not deeply comprehend what it feels like closet yourself and try to at least look interested in that cute chick while your frat brothers look on.

But, I know about not feeling like I belong somewhere. I know about feeling the need to hide and the repercussions of hiding. I know what it’s like to hear religious rhetoric slice away at what I hold dear.

Write what you know. That’s the biggest piece of advice passed down from author to author. Maybe it’s not a matter of writing what you know, but knowing what you write. Recognizing that although we may differ in labels, skin color and all sorts of other ways, we really are the same. Deep down inside, we’re the same.

And that’s rather comforting.


Why do I always find the stuff AFTER I’m done looking for it?

As some of you know and some of you don’t know, I’m a search junkie. Before writing, I worked in the research side of recruiting. I am such a geek that I belonged to a “Cyber Sleuth” group, belonged to a group that collected search strings that only yielded one hit results in google and bunch of other really, really techno-geek stuff.

When most people use google they type in things like --- erotica fiction

The group that I would hang with would use things like this.

(erotica|smut|sex) (fic*|story) (male|gay|homoerotica) And that’s a simple short one.

If we were looking for you…whoa…then it got complicated. I have search strings saved on my HDD that are several lines long.

Yep, at one time I was a NetRunner.

Anyways, I stumbled across this site Vortaloptics. Vortaloptics

And I wish I still had contact with my old search buddies. They have something that made my jaw drop open. They call it “Local Search Solutions.”

I call it goldmine. Gone would be the days of typing in a numerical range to trigger google to give me results for a certain zipcode or area code. I need to know all the hydro-engineering firms in and around Needmore, Texas? Use the local searches via Vortaloptics.

Jeez! This would make NetRunner’s lives easier, don’t ya think?

Ooo…maybe I should dust off my search skills and try to track down my old buddies for this…nah…I’m sure they’ll find me or already have.

Something like this might be a good writing tool too. The have vertical searches too. My writer friends may not know that phrase. That’s topic specific searches. Ever do a search for something like—publisher erotica—and get an bunch of articles talking about the market climate or stuff that ISN’T the website for erotica publishers? Hate wading through that crap? Me too. Vertical searches make building your publisher planning lists easier.

Maybe, I don’t always find things AFTER I need them.

Gotta love Engrish

In the event you've not heard of the site , you MUST check it out.

Here's one that tickled me to pieces, writers and editors can truly appreciate it for what it is. Everyone else will think it's Engrish. We know the truth. The caption nearly gave me giggle-death.

Grammar Crisis

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Unusual reference book rec.

In an earlier blog, I spoke about using quirks such as OCD to help bring character’s depth.

There’s something we can use to help lend some depth to stories. Superstitions.

I’m going to rec a book to everyone. “The Encyclopedia of Superstitions.” By: Christina Cole. If I’m reading the cover right, the edition I have was published by Barnes and Noble with the cooperation of Helicon Publishing Limited.

I hope you can find a copy.

This book goes into some very old superstitions as well as some newer ones. I used the information provided in this book in Full Circle and if you write period pieces you may want to check out some of the popular beliefs for whatever time frame you’re using.

I used superstition, that I didn’t assume the reader would know and used a character to introduce the idea, as a teeny hint for something with Full Circle. It’s a little thing that I expect most readers to miss it. When it comes to fruition (most likely in sequel) there should be an “Oh!” moment with the reader.

As a writing tool, I love it. As a book, I enjoy it.

Even if you don’t have a particularly superstitious character (putting in some might add character depth), it is chock full of plotbunnies waiting to be born.

Characters and Their Creature Comforts

While brainstorming for my “About to Sin” series, I thought about what our characters accessories say about them. There will be a point when the reader gets a glimpse inside Father Daniel’s and Anand’s homes. The homes themselves are very different as well as the stuff inside their homes. I hope that I write it properly and the home décor will tell more about the characters than the meat of the scene.

We’ll see if I can pull it off.

I’m stuck on what kind of vehicle each guy would drive. Priests take a vow of poverty and I thought about giving Father Daniel a bike instead of a car. I ruled that idea out, but not before wandering across a beach bike website.

I admit it. I’m an idiot. I live 45 min away from the ocean and I didn’t know you needed a special bike for sand. I also didn’t know they came in such awesome colors and styles.

beach cruiser blog

So, that got me thinking. Which bikes would my characters pick if they rode bikes?

Father Daniel is easy. He’d ride a black one, but normal looking.

Father Daniel’s bike

Father Daniel's Bike

Anand is a tough one. He’s out and proud, but not really a purple or pink bike kind of guy. He’s no queen. No offense to the gay men out there who do have a lot of sugar in the tank and love their pinks and purples. I also don’t think he’d go for silver. Silver is sleek and nice, but I think he’d get enough stainless steel at this hospital. I think Anand would ride a bright yellow bike. Yeah, bright yellow, but it would be the “chopper”style.

This style, but bright yellow.

Anand's bike

The more I look at it, this style would look stupid as bright yellow, but I still think Anand would want one.

All right, I know I’m a complete dork, but I really do think about these things.

What about my Full Circle boys?

Kendrick would ride a silver bike. That’s easy.

Kendrick's Bike

Alis wouldn’t be caught dead on a purple or pink bike. She’s feminine, but actively pushes back on gender expectations. I see her on a fire engine red bike and a style that looks solid and butch. No, she’s not a lesbian. Why do people keep asking me that? She is romantically involved with one of the guys, but I’m not telling you who yet.

So this is her style of bike, but fire engine red. (A color they don’t have, sadly.)
Alis's bike

The midwife character (unnamed, poor dear) however is very feminine and motherly. She’d ride a purple or pink one and she’d have a basket on it.

Midwife's bike

And of course the basket…


Alvaro would have a basket too, but I think he’d ride a teal bike. That, I’m sure, would surprise Josiah who would put Alvaro on a purple bike. JUST for the angst factor, I’d make sure the ONLY teal bike available would be a woman’s style. WHY do I enjoy messing with him so much? Ah, my sweet, sweet Alvaro, what did you do to become my Target of Torment?

Alvaro's bike

the basket again

Josiah and Byron are tough ones. At first I thought Byron would go for a black bike, but I think Josiah would take it first. Josiah would pick something fast, nimble and stealthy.

Like this…
Josiah's bike

Byron would probably ride a dark blue one, but something bulkier like the chopper style. Ooo…no… THIS style!

Byron's bike

Oh yeah, that’s Byron’s bike!

I would ride a dark green one. A rich deep forest green, but with those iridescent flakes in it. Yeah, THAT paint. That’d rock! I’d put in a link for that one, but they don’t have that color. And, just to be difficult, I’d want it in the chopper style just because I think that style is rather cool!

So, what about you guys? What bikes do you think your characters would ride?

Monday, January 08, 2007

A quick update.

The house fire: I just heard rumors that they think the dryer started the fire. Something about the electrical wires and lint. Most people don’t realized that lint can build up around the outside of the dry drum. We had a fire like about a decade ago. (Nothing was damaged except the dryer.)

Busted water pipe: Fixed. It’s so nice to be able to flush a toilet again. I hope everyone has a daddy as awesome as mine!

Abo the insulin dependent cat: Just peachy and responding well to his injections. Oddly enough, he doesn’t fight the injections and will get out attention when he’s not feeling well or if we’re a bit late on his shot.

I think that’s all the news that’s fit to print.

Oh! I tweaked my layout. I hope you like it. I think it’s easier on the eye.

Plotbunnies are born everywhere.

As some of you know and some of you don’t know, I’m a gamer. I’m not one of those uber-hardcore gamers with a $300 keyboard and a $200 mouse with 12 buttons, but I do enjoy MMORPG’s.

Bear with me, this will get back to plotbunnies.

There’s one phrase that can strike fear in any gamer’s heart and that’s “key logger.” But is that reputation really warranted? Someone, who ever created key loggers, must have had something in mind when making it and was it really ganking your information?

I’ll get back to the plotbunny in a moment. I PROMISE.

First let me tell you what key loggers do. They are program that sits on your machine and records everything you do: what keys your press, what you type, what websites you visit, IM’s, e-mails. When I say these things log everything, I mean everything.

Wait. Calm down before you get all 1984 and Big Brother on me. Take a few deep breaths. Deeper. Deeper. Sip your java and stop the panic attack.

These things can actually be good.

Yes, I said it.

You don’t believe me, do you? You’ve heard all the rhetoric about how bad these things are and you don’t believe me. Well, keep up because I’m tell you how these things can be good AND connected it to plotbunnies.

You really don’t think I can do this. Sheesh. I’m supposed to be the cynical one.

As a gamer, I freak at the idea of someone being able to log my key strokes and know my user id and password, but those are from the bad key loggers, snuck onto your machine by someone you don’t know and monitored by someone you don’t know. Bad key logger! No bandwidth!

These things are like any other tool. They can be used for the light side or the dark side, young techno Jedi.

While thinking about the good uses of keyloggers, I stumbled across this site.

keystroke logger

They talk about all the good that key loggers can do. Do have a child at home and you do want to monitor everything they do? Key loggers can tell you what the history folder of your browser can’t. But, you want to enjoy your time with your machine and not have to sort through about bunch of stuff that will make your head spin, well, smile. This particular one will send out alerts if it’s important. To quote from their website…

“Additionally, Spector Pro will examine and analyze the tracked activity and determine if you should be NOTIFIED IMMEDIATELY.”

Cool, huh?

There are even more mundane reasons. How many of us have had the power cut out as we were writing? Key logger would be like an automatic back up. Or did you get an IM last week telling you the name of the editor of a publication and now you realize you forgot to turn on the history for IM proggy? It should be in the key logger’s report. There are all sorts of goodies that go along with this idea.

Now, what makes this type of key logger a good guy and the other types of loggers bad guys is that you put it on the target machine. You get the monitoring reports. You have the control. Good key logger! Yummy bandwidth!

Now, here’s where the plot bunny kicks in. Oh, NOW I have your attention.

The longer I checked out the website, the more my writer’s wheels turned. There’s a story in here somewhere. Think about all the monitoring done with trying to catch pedophiles. In my mind, I see some sleaze ball trying to prey upon children and some hero (you know the type: single dad, trying to make a good life for him and his son, cares a lot and at times he wonders if he’s doing the right thing or holding his child too close. Yeah, that type.) They (the child predator hunters) suspect the predator, they have probable cause, but they need the evidence.

Wait for the plotbunny to strike. Do you feel it nibbling yet?

The hero Single Dad (I’ll name him later.) knows how nasty the net can be. He’s a protective dad, maybe a little paranoid, but can you blame him? His son is the prime age to be targeted and sees this disgusting stuff all day. He puts a key logger on his son’s machine. Of course his son has his own machine, dad uses the main machine all the time and nobody likes to hear a kid whine. While he’s writing an e-mail to his boss and an alert from key logger pops up on his machine.

Their target sleaze ball just found his son.

THAT’s one HELL of a plotbunny! Now, all I need to do is figure out how to get some romance in it.

O.O Double plot bunny strike!

The child protection task force has to go to the company to help get through all the proxies the sleaze ball has used. That’s where I can get in the romance. Two people who care about the safety of children come together while trying to nail a jerk.

Now, all I have to do is write it.

The moral of the story is…

All you writers out there remember to keep your eyes and mind open. Plotbunnies breed everywhere even in key loggers.

On the upside…

Excitement burned in my neighborhood last night. It started with a hysterical woman running though the streets yelling, “Fire!”

I live in a small house on a small yard surrounded by other people doing the same. It’s the kind of neighborhood that makes firefighters shake their head and take bets on when they’ll be called out.

Needless to say, that woman got our attention.

My husband grabbed the phone and ran out to the porch dialing 911 on the fly. I grabbed some shoes and headed out to see what I could do. Sure enough two doors down, a neighbor’s house was on fire.

The guy’s front door eroded under an orange and red glow. Square voids of black clung to the air where the fire had already eaten its way through. The smoke, still gray, rose in the air.

This wasn’t good, but luckily the guy was in the process of moving and wasn’t home.

I woman behind me said, “We have to get Ed out.”

Ed, a retired Marine, is my next door neighbor and lives between my house and the house on fire. He’s very hard of hearing, goes to bed with the sun and with the few paltry feet between his front door and the door on fire, I knew we had to get him out.

The woman, whose face I don’t remember seeing, ran up to me. “His keys were in his front door again.”

I snatched the keys out of her hand. “I’ll get him.” I looked at the keys and had no idea which one belonged to his lock. “Which key was in the lock?”

She took the keys and shook her head. After picking one at random, she handed them back to me. “I don’t know.”

I wasn’t going to waste time trying keys. Ed had to be woken up and out of his place NOW. I ran to his door and, literally, beat open his front door. Literally. I didn’t know I had it in me. I screamed for Ed, telling him he had to get out of his house. Before I realized it, I’d barreled my way thought the door. The top swung freely, but the bottom of his door seemed stuck by something.

The woman behind me cried, “Oh God, is he behind the door?”

Maybe I’ve watched too much Law and Order, but I looked down expecting to see his feet keeping me from opening the door all the way. That’s when I saw him walking, thankfully, into his living room. After quickly telling him to get dressed and get out, I ran back to the street. I’ll never know what blocked the bottom of the door.

The woman behind me said, “That’s right, John, get the gas cans. Good boy!” I think the kid’s name was John. I don’t really remember, but the gas cans did remind me of something. Nearly all of these houses have propane tanks.

We live in the metro area, but this particular neighborhood isn’t on gas pipes for some messed up reason. We’re on tanks. Oh, shit.

I asked her where his (the burning house guy) tank was and she didn’t know. I looked around and didn’t see a tank. Maybe, I hoped, we’d get lucky and his place was all electric.

The firemen weren’t on scene yet. I felt the need to do more. Dashing back to my house, I grabbed my garden hose. Ed doesn’t have an outside spigot or doesn’t have it in a useable spot or something, so he uses mine. He bought a small garden hose to use while washing his truck. My garden hose is longer. I disconnected his garden hose and connected mine. In the low light, I could barely see to get it threaded, but I got the rusty piece of crap started and promptly sliced my thumb. Oh freaking well, right? I continued screwing on the longer hose and slicked my thumb again. Shit happens. It hurt, but I got the hose connected and started running it toward the street.

I reached the end of the hose, but it seemed too short. Thinking I the hose caught on something, I rushed back and heard water gushing. There shouldn’t be water running, I hadn’t turned on the hose.

Sure enough, I busted a pipe just above my water main. In one night, I discovered that I had the strength to beat through a door and snap a pipe without trying. I yelled for a flash light and my husband, still on the phone with 911, came running. Cold water sprayed me as I turned off the water to the house rendering my garden hose fire fighting impuissant.

The smoke started morphing from grey to black and the fire department arrived. The smoke smelled funny and very acidic. It smelled like an electrical fire and burning plastic.

I noticed the gas cans and felt they were a little too close to the fire. I moved them further away and watched the firefighters do their thing. Three fire trucks, two fire chief SUV’s and at least three people from the sheriff’s department turned out. They were prepared for this fire to spread.

As suspected, the house was empty. The firemen quickly put it out.

I believe that writer’s must witness life in order to write about it. I observed the firefighters making mental notes about how they moved and what they did. I looked at the gear and tried to write it out in my head. Lights pulsed, engines hummed and water hissed. The firemen took digital photographs and some members of the neighborhood suspected the guy set the fire. I don’t believe that. It makes no sense. He was moving out and I don’t think he had insurance.

I make a lot of jokes about the crazy rednecks in my hood, but they’re decent people. I’ve had nothing stolen or damaged. One neighbor even lent me a shovel when she noticed me struggling with a plant last year. They’re poor people and many are uneducated, but they’re good people.

But, I’m the new family on the block and who knows. I thought about the gas cans and I flagged one of the firefighters. He was a redhead with green eyes and pale skin.

I have such a weakness for redheads. Redheads are hot in a multitude of ways. I told him about the gas cans and that I didn’t know how close they were to the house. I told him that someone moved them away, I moved them father and they felt empty when I lifted them.

He appreciated the information and walked back to the truck.

He was cute and a redhead. I now had more reason to watch this fire. I returned to observation mode and caught the profile of…

Here’s the upside.

…a damn fine firefighter. Jet black hair. Bright blue eyes. Sweat glistening on his face. Redheads are hot, but black hair and blue eyes is even hotter.

A plotbunny started nibbling.

They started rolling up the hoses and a few of the people left. I stood by my car half observing and half wondering about the redhead and dark haired hunks.

There had to be a story in here. There HAD to be. I just needed to listen for it.

The redhead smiled at me and approached. “Are you guys all right?”

I nodded. “We’re fine.” I thought I’d be better if I could watch them shower, but I figured that would be asking a bit much.

“You live here?”

I nodded again. “Yep, this is my hunk of junk.”

“Aww, don’t call it that. That’s your home.”

I smiled. “You’re right.” That plotbunny nibbled like crazy, but it hadn’t bitten me—yet.

“I saw you standing here and just wanted to double check.”

I hiked an eyebrow. Nibble plotbunny. Nibble! I remembered that most arsonists watch the fires they set. It’s some kind of sexual something for them. Again, maybe I watch too much Law and Order, but I tried to see how it looked. Some chick watching a fire and kinda sorta being involved. Some chick who was observing with careful interest.

I felt I needed to explain myself. “I’m a writer. So, I’m trying to watch you guys and learn what I can. How you do things. What order you do them. How you move in your gear. Who talks to whom.” I chuckled. “I don’t want you thinking I’m some kind of arson freak.” As soon as that left my mouth, I realized it make me look more like an arson freak. Open mouth. Insert foot. Chew.

He laughed. “Just as long as you’re all right.”

“We’re just fine. You guys did a good job tonight. Took it out with a quickness.”

He flashed me another panty-melting smile and walked away.

I exhibited no signs of distress and I was the only one he approached. One of two things was going on. He either thought I was an arson freak or he was flirting with me.

The plotbunny bit.

Now, the question remains which one gets to be the firefighter? The redhead with his adorable smile or the dark haired guy with his get-ya-in-jaw good looks? And, do I want to add the twist of one of them being an arson freak?

Life is full of writable moments. We just have to let them happen. That’s right, Plotbunny, bite. Good Plotbunny.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Language Development

We’ve all heard those kid’s stories numerous times and in several formats. As cute and as funny as they are who knows if they are the truth. I’m about to share three with you that I know are the truth. I know this because they happened to me.

As some of you know and some you don’t know, a q-tip destroyed my left ear drum when I was two. I was finally old enough to have it reconstructed when I was eight. The years between two and eight are fairly important for language development and when you are deaf in one ear things get slightly misunderstood.

Fortunately (?), I lived in an area with a heavy accent and many homonyms are pronounced differently that they are in the rest of the US. “There”, “they’re” and “their” do not sound the same in my native dialect (thar, they-ah-r, thir). However, I still confuse metaphors, idioms and some homonyms. If you ever hear me say, “six a dozen,” know that’s my short hand for “six of one, half a dozen of another.” Idioms don’t make much sense when you grow up missing some of the words.

Other things don’t make much sense, either.

Case in point—

For years upon years, I proudly stood in church and sang when the offering was brought forth from the back of the sanctuary. Those of us that have attended the Christian churches are familiar with “Praise God from Who All Blessings Flow.” The offering starts at the front pews, works its way back and then is brought forward by the ushers. At that time, the congregation stands and sings. Ever since I remember, I stood and proudly sang, “Praise God from who all blessings flow. Praise him all preachers him below.” I had no idea those were the wrong words. They didn’t make a lick of sense to me, but I figured this was one of the many things I would understand when I got older. Besides, who am I to argue with a tried and true hymn? (Shouldn’t it be “from whom“? But, I digress.)

When I was sixteen, a situation occurred and granted the opportunity to learn the correct words. The offering was brought forth, we stood, the congregation sang “Praise God from who all blessings flow.” We all went silent. When I say all I mean all—the entire congregation, the choir, the preacher every single one of us—forgot the words at the same time. We stood dumbfounded for a little bit and, under chuckles at our collective mea culpa, the preacher looked up the hymn in the hymnal. It was then that I realized the words were “Praise him all creatures here below.” I am in such a habit of singing it my way that I still say the words wrong if I’m not careful. (I still think it should be from whom all blessings flow, but I digress.)

Another situation --

My brother has always been a Dallas Cowboys fan. By default and under penalty of physical pain, I was thrust into Cowboys fandom. Things like this tend to happen to little sisters. Wanting desperately for my brother to be proud of his little sister, I proclaimed that Roger Strawback was the best football player ever. That got a few laughs that I didn’t quite understand. However, the best gem was that when I wanted to reinforce declaration and said, “If you ever get hit by him, you’ll get that lime green disease and die.” As my family laughed at my devoted fan-ness, I was one confused little girl.

My mother finally calmed enough to say, “Cup (she called me by my birth name, but you guys wouldn’t recognize that), do you mean gangrene and not lime green?” They didn’t bother to correct me on his name and when I finally saw it written down I didn’t recognize the player. They also didn’t tell me that quarterbacks aren’t in the habit of tackling other players; I suppose no one died of lime green from Roger Strawback.

Language development is not just vocal, it is also written.

When I was in the first grade at J.W. Adams Elementary School in Pound, Virginia; I was the only left-handed student my teacher had ever had. She wasn’t a new teacher. Ms. Bolling was probably about 7 years shy of retirement. First grade is when you learn to write on lined paper, this was something I had a very hard time with. Ms. Bolling, being the astute teacher she was (and she was an excellent teacher), noticed that I formed my letters backwards. She did not know how to teach a left-handed person how to write, so my backwards writing was encouraged. She taught me “the hook”. Why not? All lefties have the hook, right? She also taught me to set my paper so that the lines were vertical and not horizontal -- which reinforced the hook as well as let me know that the lines were there for no good reason.

Seeing that this was not working, she taught me to write with my paper upside down. So, here I am with my hooked arm, trying to write backwards and upside down. Following her on the board was difficult and they wondered why I had poor marks in penmanship.

When I entered second grade (a different Ms. Bolling), I had another teacher who had never taught a lefty. I suppose I should stress that I was the only left handed student in the school. This teacher taught me to write starting on the right hand side of the paper. So, now I’m writing with my paper right side up, but with backwards, upside down letters and I’m spelling the words beginning with the last letter. They actually wondered why I had a really hard time differentiating between left and right as well as lower case b’s and d’s. My mother grew frustrated with my poor penmanship. My grandmother couldn’t read a thing I wrote.

My mother learned that the only left-handed teacher in the school happened to be a third grade teacher. This is also the time when kids graduate from the tan paper to the white ruled paper we all use as adults. My mother arranged for me to be in Ms. Hampton’s class. Ms. Hampton did her best. She told me to set my paper straight instead of a slant (or sideways or upside down), she tried (but failed) to correct “the hook” and she went crazy trying to figure out why I was writing on the backs of my paper. She would stress and stress that the holes in the paper go on the opposite side of the hand that you write with. So, I did -- for half the year I did. For half the year, I couldn’t understand why it was that I failed for follow such simple instructions.

Finally, I had reached a point where my letters were right side up and starting on the left-hand side of the paper. I spelled the words in the correct order, but alas not only were most of my letters backwards, but I was now writing on the wrong side of the paper. Life is so hard for a third grader.

One day in Ms. Hampton’s class, we were working on a writing assignment. This began with her usual instructions about the holes in the paper. I think she stressed this for me. No one else seemed to have a problem with this concept, I felt like a complete dunce.

Before we started writing, she scanned our desks. She spoke, “Cup, look at your paper.” Ms. Hampton did an excellent job of encouraging students to determine their own errors.

I looked down and looked back up at her. I saw nothing wrong.

She repeated her instructions, “The holes go on the opposite side of the hand that you write with.”

I looked down. I looked at my pencil in my left hand and my holes on the right side. I was one confused little girl. I knew the definition of the word opposite; and boy, did this look opposite to me. I looked back up at her. “Yes, Ma’am.” I held up my left hand with my pencil and pointed to the holes with my right hand.

Ms. Hampton brought a hand to her mouth and nervously chuckled. “Yes, dear, you are right.” She shook her head, “I forgot.” She laughed. “You are special. Your holes go on the same side of the hand you write with.”

That’s when I learned I was special. Not only was I special, but I was special enough for it to be declared to the entire class and I was special enough to write on the back of the paper. From that day forward, whenever she would issue those instructions she would follow it with, ”Except you, Cup, because you’re special.”

I never got called down for writing on the back of my paper again. I guess all of my teachers could just tell that I was some kind of special.

So, here I was writing on the backs of my papers (because I’m special and that rule doesn’t apply to me), with my “hook”, forming most of my letters backwards but at least my paper was the correct orientation.

Forward onto cursive. Again, I had a teacher that didn’t know how to teach a lefty to write. Ms. Barnette (fifth grade) and Ms. Skeens (fourth grade) just sighed and told me to make my letters look like what the picture looks like and they didn’t care how I got it that way. However, they did want me to slant my paper.

I slanted it the way my first Ms. Bolling taught me and my words were now disregarding the lines. I didn’t understand what my pens and pencils had against lines. I suppose they just didn’t like being forced to follow ink. This, apparently, was unacceptable. So, I slanted my paper like everyone else with the bottom angled toward the right elbow. My pens and pencils had a problem with me. They didn’t want to stay on the lines and now my backward formed letters were slanted wrong. Great. Finally, I slanted my paper so that the bottom was angled toward the left elbow. Why pens and pencils formed a conspiracy against a little girl, I will never understand. It was at that point, my teachers gave up trying to get me to slant my paper and once again I was special enough to keep it straight. Whew.

After that, teachers paid less attention to how you write, but what you write. I would get strange looks when I wrote on the board or an overhead projector with my backwards, non-slanted, hook formed letters, but no one spoke on my “special-ness”. I figured they all knew that some rules didn’t apply to me.

All of this is the set up for this story…

I was sixteen driving down the road with some friends and we came across a Toys “R” Us. Wordlessly, I pulled to the side of the road and got out of the car. Needless to say, my friends were baffled, but a bit jaded to me. One gal-pal got out of the car and blinked at me. “What is it this time?”

With my brow knitted, I looked at the sign. “When did they change the sign?”

She looked around. “What sign?”

“The Toys “R” Us sign.”

She looked. “It’s not been changed.”

I nodded as fury grew inside of me. “Yes it has. The “R” is backwards. Who gave them the right to mess with an American icon? This just isn’t right. Do you have any idea how many little kids this will confuse?”

“Cup, listen to me. The “R” has always been backwards.”

I pointed at her and shook my head. “No. No, it hasn’t been and I’m going to prove it to you.”

I ignored the protests and babble from my mistaken friends and drove to the store. Needless to say, I was one upset young lady and that was one confused store manager.

It wasn’t until years later while watching a commercial did I see the letter flip on the TV screen and realize that indeed the “R” has always been backwards. I wish I could apologize to that store manager.

Sigh, at least I’m still special enough to write backwards on the “back“ of my non-slanted paper while cheering for Roger Strawback, all other players him NOT below.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

How Do You Write a Novel?

Someone asked me a question that gave me pause.

“How do you write a novel?”

He didn’t mean me, but the general generic “you.” After I shook sense back in my head, I thought for a moment and gave him the only answer I could think of, “One word at a time.”

I’m not sure what he was asking me. The gist of the conversation led me to believe he didn’t want a step by step manual. I didn’t think he wanted how to birth plot bunnies, how to design characters, whether or not to do an outline, or the logistics of getting from “Once upon a time” to “the end.”

Maybe, I was wrong.

It seems to me that how a writer writes a novel (other than one word at a time) is unique to each writer if not each story.

When I start a story, I don’t often know the ending or even the full plot. The story reveals itself to me as I write it. I do think ahead and if I’m working on chapter 3, I know what needs to happen in chapter 6. I don’t write outlines. I keep it very flexible and let the story build itself.

That’s all we really are, right? We don’t create stories. We write stories. We’re facilitators between the real world and the imaginary world in our heads. Writing is like a maze. We’re not the walls or the dead ends. We’re the path that shows the walls to the reader.

Sometimes the maze is fairly simple and short. Sometimes it twists and turns. When the writer gets lost in their own maze, what do they do?

Call an editor.

Ok, other than that?

That’s when we scale a wall and scan the area. That’s when we “outline” the plot even if it’s only in our heads.

I’ve tried to think about how it is that I write a novel or a story. The only thing I can think of is: I type it.

I’ll use Tainted Past, coming soon via Lady Aibell, as an example. I wanted to do something Twilight Zone-ish. I wanted something chilling, but not “Scary dude with an axe” chilling. After watching Saw 1 and 2, reading some Poe for the umpteenth time and refreshing my tertiary knowledge of Descartes, I wondered: Why do we take our knowledge of ourselves to be fact? What makes a man? What makes a life? How can I answer these questions in a way that carries a reader with me? Do I really have the linguistic ability to make someone question reality?

I started typing. After getting three-quarters through the story, I sent it to a friend. He got back to me with, “I like it. It’s hot, but disturbing.”

I asked him, “What makes it disturbing?”

“It could happen.”

That’s what I wanted. Something so mundane and innocent that it could be real. Not a gremlin on a wing that defies the laws of physics. Not a crazed madman who kills circles around bungling police officers. Not idiot teenagers hacked to death in a haunted house while having an orgy in a shower.

I wanted something that was chilling due to its simplicity. I want the reader to question themselves by writing something that encourages you to cheer for the bad guy—if there really is a bad guy in this particular story. AND I wanted it hot. After getting more feedback, I finished the story and sent it into submissions. The first publisher to see it accepted it.

I’ll only know if I achieved my goal once the story is in the hands of readers, but that’s one way that I write a story. Full Circle was written in a completely different fashion with different goals. Selling Foxx is totally different from Full Circle and Tainted Past.

Surely there are similarities in my process that I don’t see, but for now I’m sticking to my answer.

How do you write a novel? One word at a time.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Must See Net Vids

I KNOW I’ve already blogged today, but I must share these.

Internet vids have become increasingly disappointing. How many times can you see a skate boarder crash and still find it funny? Those annoying “scare” videos were cute the FIRST time. Fart jokes and other bits of “juvenile” humor aren’t even funny to juveniles anymore. Lastly, seeing amateur video of two women fighting does nothing for me.

These two videos are the types of videos that keep me wading through all the crap.

The first one (and how this post is connected to writing) shows us that no matter the subject matter, the tone is what carries the piece. Don’t believe me? Check out Mary Poppins presented as a horror flick. I’m not normally scared by horror flicks, but this “trailer” gave me chills.

  • Mary Poppins

  • Now, this one was fascinating from an intellectual point of view. It looks at research done with spiders to show the effects of alcohol and other drugs on web spinning. Dang interesting and short.

  • Spider Research

  • Enjoy!

    Telling Time

    Sometimes it can be difficult to establish the time era of a story. This might not be the case when you can refer to a Model-T or a hippie chick, but sometimes like the 80’s it might be a bit difficult.

    Sure, you might be able to slip in the year or even tag it with an italicized June 17, 1984. Mentioning a song on the radio or a shaker sweater might work, but that would require the reader to recognize the song (and hope they don’t think the character is listening to an “oldies” station) or know when shaker sweaters were popular (and not think the character was having a passé fashion moment.)

    There are certain historical events that characterize human history, but if you don’t need to mention the current President is Taylor then why force it into the story?

    Fads, however, can help establish the timeline in a very subtle way. I stumbled across a website that talks about some of the major fads during the past decades in the USA. Even if you don’t like this as a writing tool, it’s still interesting.

    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    Is it Legal?

    I was watching TV the other day.

    Don’t look at me like that.

    Fine! You caught me. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t watch TV in the true sense. I was watching a TV show online the other day. (There. Is that better?) No, this wasn’t an illegal download. This was legit. CBS puts some of its shows up for people like me who have stopped turning on the TV and started booting up their machines.


    I was watching CSI and I noticed that the drink machines were the “cola” brand. A lot of shows do this: generic cola, nondescript beer, etc, etc. Name brands tend to not be used unless it’s something unavoidable like a car model.

    This made me wonder. Am I allowed to refer to McDonalds or Coke/Pepsi in a story? I’m not talking about defaming the companies or anything. I’m just wondering what the legalities are of having a character enjoy a Big Mac.

    Can anyone clarify?