Monthly Archives: October 2013

All Hallow’s Read

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Happy Halloween

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, who’s doing NaNoWriMo? I don’t do much for Halloween, because I’m usually thinking about the novel I need to start tomorrow.

So, is there anything that does excite me about Halloween? Funny you should ask. There’s an event called All Hallow’s Read, which suggests that you give a friend or loved one a book for Halloween.

You know if there are books involved, I’m all over it. I found out about it last year when Neil Gaiman helped promote it by giving away a wonderful story he’d written, called “Click-Clack the Rattlebag”. He read it in his lovely, plummy voice, and Audible gave it away to anyone who could download it by October 31, 2012. They donated $1 to DonorsChoose.org, too. Sadly, “Click-Clack the Rattlebag” is no longer available at any price, at least as far as I know. Correct me if I’m wrong, please!

So I can’t offer you the Neil Gaiman story I wanted you to have. I can’t even tell you where to buy it. But don’t let that stop you from giving someone a book for Halloween.

Anyway, in the generous tradition of Audible.com (and as a consolation prize), I’m offering a story I wrote for Halloween last year. It’s not Neil Gaiman, but, hey, it’s free. My inspiration was the theatrical superstition connected to saying the name of a famous Scottish play by Shakespeare. If you’re not familiar with the superstition, here’s a short primer, courtesy of The Simpsons:

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Without further ado, here’s my ghost story:

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The Excellent Cat Rambo

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Cat Rambo

Here’s a shout out to my pal, Cat Rambo. Okay, Cat and I have never actually met, but she did give me an awesome opportunity this past month, and she’s giving me another one in December. Let me explain. No, that will take too long. Let me sum up: I got to do a beta read for a book she’s releasing soon. At the time I read it, the title was Building an Online Presence for Writers. The book was already really helpful, and this was before she was ready to unleash it on the public.

Okay. It may be a bit premature for me to worry about my online presence at this point. I seem to be writing actual fiction at the speed of a geriatric snail. However, Cat’s got that covered. She does point out that the real writing comes first. She should know. She’s published over 200 pieces of fiction.

For the uninitiated, Cat is a fantasy and fiction author (and editor, and teacher) who lives in the Pacific Northwest. She has such an impressive resume that I couldn’t possibly do it justice, but you can get the gist on her web site, http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/

For those interested in the online presence book, it should be coming out soon. I’ll update as I know more. In addition to writing and editing, Cat teaches writing (and other topics related to writing) online. That brings me to the other awesome opportunity, which is a class she’s teaching on the same topic as the book. I got into a free, one-hour version of the class, which is running on December 6. That class is limited to the first 8 sign-ups, so email her to sign up quickly if you’re interested! The good news, though, is that she also teaches it as a three-hour class, among many interesting online offerings.

Thanks for everything, Cat! Talk to you in December, after National Novel Writing Month!

Speaking of which, NaNoWriMo starts on Friday, November 1, or three days from the date of this post. My handle is Cee-Bee. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo too, let’s be Writing Buddies!

Returning to Real Life, Reluctantly

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The Barlet Administration

I just finished watching the last episode of The West Wing on Netflix. I must have avoided watching the last two episodes for a month. It might even have been longer. I knew once I watched them, it would be all over. I guess I could watch it all over again, but for now, I’d rather not. That last episode left me in a beautifully melancholy state of mind. It was all about one administration ending and another beginning. It serves up the same bittersweet feeling that The Lord of The Rings has at the very end.

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I think I’m ready for another adventure

Right now, I don’t feel like doing anything except remembering the show. The best stories will do that to you. You live in that world for one hour a week, for a couple of hours in a theater…or in the case of a great book, for however long it takes you to read it. It’s really hard to leave when it’s over.

Those are the kinds of stories I want to write.

I’ve mentioned 2 story worlds that I had to leave too soon, though there are plenty more. Are there stories – whether they appeared in a book, a movie, or a TV series – that make you feel the same way? If you feel like sharing, I’d love to see some of them in the comments section.

 

I Write Like Who?

Image   Apparently I write like Neil Gaiman!

Okay, I guess that’s only true for the first few paragraphs of just one of my stories. When I added an extra paragraph from the same story, my result was Raymond Chandler.

I just discovered a site called “I Write Like” which may end up being (for me) one of the biggest time drains on the Internet. Who wouldn’t preen at being compared to somebody like Neil Gaiman? Or Raymond Chandler?

Most of the big buzz about this site happened in 2010, so you can see how out-of-the-loop I am. But if you haven’t tried this site, check it out with your own writing. You’ll be amazed at how wonderful you are. I also apparently write like Chuck Palahniuk, Kurt Vonnegut,  and William Shakespeare.

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Will and me…we’re like this. He’s the one in the fancy collar.

I quit pasting my text into the “I Write Like” text box once I hit William Shakespeare. How do you top that? Of course, I didn’t think I could do better than Neil Gaiman and then I got Kurt Vonnegut. Not that one is better than the other (okay, feel free to disagree; post your opinion in the comments section below). It’s just that I knew Vonnegut before I knew Gaiman. But seriously, how can you do better than Shakespeare?

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Cue angelic choirs

I guess maybe if you got a combo response: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all rolled into one. Even then, I’m not so sure. That might just mean you’re inconsistent. Those guys didn’t agree on everything.

Anyway, I have my doubts about this site. I find it interesting that I’ve never received a result that compared me to a female writer. Do they only have male writers in their database? How does this thing work, anyway?  Let’s try this one and see if I break the analyzer:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Hall is let at last?”

And…enter!

Okay, they passed the test. They have at least one female writer in their database. Not only that, they know when you enter one of said female writer’s most famous passages into their text box, and obligingly tell you that you write just like Jane Austen. At least it proved true with my poorly-thought-out experiment.

For those who’d like a little more information about this meme, here’s an interview with the site’s creator, Dmitry Chestnykh.

In the meantime, I need to go write while I’m still channeling Shakespeare.

An Appreciation of Miss Manners

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Judith Martin

I have a lot of questions. I have to get my answers somewhere. One of my favorite answer people is Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners. I’ve been desolate for the last few weeks, when she seemed to have disappeared from my Chicago Tribune on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays. The Trib has an unsettling habit of letting features I enjoy simply lapse with little to no explanation. A couple of weeks ago they posted a tiny announcement that went something like this:

Beginning this week, the Miss Manners column will be a joint effort by Judith Martin, her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin.”

Then I saw nothing of Miss Manners for what felt like forever. It may only have been a month, but I was certain that Miss Manners was gone from my life. I assumed the Tribune had decided that if Miss Manners could  not handle the duties of her column without the aid of her children, she would have to go. I had visions of her in a parka, set adrift on an ice floe. I felt bereft, until I realized that Miss Manners is a syndicated columnist. I need not be the the mercy of the Trib. In one form or another, she was still

“…helping to convey the importance of etiquette and good manners with wit and wisdom. She has advised millions on how to treat others with dignity and respect.”

(from Judith Martin’s National Humanities Medal, awarded in 2005)

I was poised to do an exhaustive internet search so that I could find a way to continue to read her column.

Huzzah! She magically reappeared in my Tribune today! My despair has given way to jubilation…tempered with caution, of course. What’s to keep the Chicago Tribune from withholding her without explanation once again? I can think of nothing.

I’m relieved, however, that she has a helpful website that provides links to where she may be read online. I never know when the Trib will turn arbitrary and capricious and stop publishing her column altogether.

Viva Miss Manners! Long may she shine as a beacon of civility in this benighted world.

National Novel Writing Month – 2013

Have you noticed that the world is full of fun things to do?

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One of them is writing. Yeah, yeah, I know.

1. It’s hard to find the time.
2. Blank pages (or screens) are terrifying.
3. Trying to express your excellent ideas  can be frustrating. What you write never turns out as fabulous as what you imagined.
4. It’s lonely.

Okay. I’ll give you the first 3.

As for number 4, what if I told you that you didn’t have to go it alone?

A few  years back, my friend Cheryl’s husband mentioned that she couldn’t hang out with us because she was writing a novel. She was not taking on any social obligations for the month of November! I thought it very noble of her, sacrificing herself for her art like that. I was filled with admiration. However, even though I’d also written a fair amount of fiction in the past, I didn’t see myself doing what she’d signed up for. Write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days? What a recipe for disaster! I might be able to key 50,000 words into a Word document. There were no guarantees that it would end up being a novel.

But the idea stuck with me. Then, as November of 2010 approached, I found myself checking out the National Novel Writing Month web site. I checked some of their recommended books out of the library. I read inspirational pep talks from previous years. I discovered that writing a novel in November really means writing a horrible first draft. Heck, anyone can do that just as soon as they bind and gag their inner editor and stick her in the basement, with promises to let her out by Christmas. I saw that my friend Cheryl could be my online buddy through the ordeal. (Cheryl’s NaNoWriMo handle is CeeCeeMee, if you want her to be your writing buddy, too.) So I signed up.

One issue: Cheryl lives in Indiana. There was no way she could physically hold my hand. So I began searching for support closer to home.

That was when I teamed up with The Novelistas.
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I also began to hang out with my local NaNo region, whose site is here. They have become my peeps. I promise more about them in future posts.

With all of us cheering each other on, a bunch of us won, and I was one of the proud victors. I have participated in NaNo ever since.

Did I write deathless prose in November of 2010? Or in November of 2011 or 2012, for that matter? No freaking way. But I got at least 50,000 words each of those years. Here comes the disclaimer: even though what I wrote in 2012 is a steaming pile of you-know-what, I feel like, given a healthy pruning and with some missing parts filled in, it could amount to something some day. I will keep you posted on that front.

In the meantime, if you’ve ever wanted to write a novel someday, this could be your year. Seriously.

And if you want me for a NaNoWriMo writing buddy, my handle on the site is Cee-Bee.