Friday, March 30, 2012

Guest Post: Writing as a Competition

I've been using more of *'s real estate on writing advice lately. It shows where my head's at, gets me involved in a community I like, and forces me to articulate my core writing beliefs. As I tweeted about a recent blog, someone remarked "I'm in yer blog, stealing yer research." I promptly hid my kids, hid my wife, and hid my husbands. I tweeted another new blog entry and he essentially said, "Seriously, I don't understand why you're giving away all your research for free."

I didn't respond in any particularly clever way, but this interaction brings up an important idea. Are we, as a writing community, in direct competition with each other? And if so, shouldn't we cede no conceivable advantages to our competitors?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In Pursuit of the Sun

Nothing but golden wings.
Golden hopes and golden dreams.

He died, right?

He flew too close to the sun and paid for his youthful folly with his life. He ignored the sage advice of his father and allowed his man-made wings to lift him into the air, far higher than he should ever have gone.

His story is full of parental advice - all things in moderation, listen to your parents, do what I say or the sun will melt your feathers and you'll fall into the sea.

But the children don't listen, they never listen, and generation after generation gain their wings and look up to the sun. Is this folly or foresight? Destiny or self-destruction? What's the difference?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Lover Award

Imagine my surprise when a little bird told me that I had been nominated for an award. An award? Me? Really? What is this?

Apparently, there is a certain award called the Liebster Award, which my German-speaking friends tell me means "lover". I can only assume that when they named it this, they were referring to such synonyms as beloved, favorite, or dearest. I'm not sure how to feel about receiving the "Lover Award."

Nevertheless, received it I have! Feast your eyes on this beauty:

This is an award that was created to give love and attention to lesser-known blogs. It's designed to showcase those blogs who could fondly be considered "best-kept secrets," with under 200 followers. I am honored to have been nominated by Jeff Hargett of Strands of Pattern, and while I usually don't pass along these messages, it would be selfish of me not to in this case.

Besides, who can resist that pretty little heart?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Do My Characters Need Religion?

Let us set aside the issue of religion itself - which one is right, if any, what the truth is, where it came from, etc. All these are irrelevant. What matters now is your character, determining what he or she believes, and many factors can have an influence on this.

Most major cultures are largely religious, and if the character has spent most of her life deeply immersed into the culture, then it's more likely that she is religious. If she lives on the fringes, she's more likely to have rejected the dominating religion.

The strength of her moral code plays into this, as religions are tend to have strong moral codes. She could believe in morality so strongly that it actually supplants the religious portion of her belief, or she could follow the religion because it supports the moral code she believes in.

However, it's possible that he is part of a counter-culture, and that can go different ways as well. He could be a rebel against the system, rejecting everything it stands for, including the religion, or he could have deviant beliefs that cause him to be isolated from the community. Either option allows for greater character development along  potentially new avenues.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Power of Positive Thinking

Last week I attended the beginning of the Miss America 2013 pageants. Fifteen beautiful young ladies competed for the honor of representing our small college city, the local area, and the larger surrounding area. Each demonstrated amazing talents, but only three girls won, and fewer still stood out to me.

I noticed, however, that the girls I favored all had one thing in common. They were all incredibly positive.

One of the girls livened up a harp piece by rapping on the casing and flinging out her arms every time she finished a scale. Another made an esoteric violin solo approachable by playing songs the audience knew. Still another performed a heart-stopping hula dance that drew my most taciturn friend into letting out a whoop of approval.

On this stage with fifteen 'characters', I have mentioned three- the cheerful ones. The melodramatic ones I have left out, relegating them to mere placeholders in this story.

It's always easy to be dramatic.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Abandoning Truth in Fiction

I have a friend who is currently writing a story and posting it in chapters, or "entries," online. He currently has up to Entry #5 posted, and as I've read through his work, I've been consistently impressed with one particular thing. He is amazing at conveying character.

He undertook a project I rarely dare to try - inserting people from his life directly into his story. This is usually a very bad idea, copyright issues aside, because it's almost impossible to write a real-life person accurately as a character.

That combined with the possible offense to be taken if you show them in a bad light, their desire to do certain things or act in a certain way, and the writer's desire to make people happy can easily combine to have a huge effect on the story. McSamsonite consistently manages to navigate these hazards and accurately portray the personalities of his friends.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Spirit of Fantasy: Do You Have It?

I went to exactly one panel at LTUE that I hated. It was a reading by Larry Correia from a short story called "Tanya, Princess of the Elves." He started with the idea that in his world, elves would be the equivalent of white trailer trash. His wife was tired of the high and mighty elves, so he took the exact opposite road.

This I could have dealt with on its own. I'm very fond of elves as they appear in common folklore, with beauty and grace and magic, but I always enjoy new twists on the old works. What drove me absolutely crazy as he read through Chapter 1 was the complete and total lack of fantasy.

Fantasy isn't a setting of rolling plains and dark forests. Fantasy isn't elves and dwarves and goblins. Fantasy isn't having crossbows and swords and having knights charge at each other in full armor--we have medieval fiction for that. Fantasy isn't even magic.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Someone gave me a four-leaf clover yesterday. My computer class was ending and a man came up to me asking "Was it you with the ladybug? Was that you?" I stammered for a bit, trying to figure out what he was talking about, and then I flashed back to the beginning of the semester.

I was trying to find a quiet, Internet-free place to study, having a two-hour gap between classes, and on my way from building to building I saw a little red ladybug in the snow. I couldn't just leave it there, so I dropped my books off in the nearest building and went looking for a place I could put her to be warm.

I asked the opinion of pretty much everyone I came across, finally settling on the idea of taking her to the greenhouse in the Agriculture and Life Sciences building. Having no idea where that was, I naturally had to ask more people in order to find the right building, and then get directions once I was inside. Eventually I found the greenhouse, and inside the greenhouse I found magic.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Only Human

Fun fact: Life, the Universe and Everything was my first convention. Ever. However, if I had to pick a place to start, I'd pick LTUE. It was exactly my kind of place. Filled with authors and wannabe authors (that's me!), writers all, it had a haphazard, homey feel to it.

Last-minute changes were made, plans were turned upside down, and roving bands of volunteers wandered the halls finding those who looked more lost than usual. The schedule for Saturday was so last-minute that they refused to give out schedules until Saturday, and even then there were plenty of changes made as the day went on. It was a conference for writers by writers.

But the most interesting part of the convention was how completely normal the authors were. I suppose this comes as a surprise to only me, but authors - even bestselling, published authors who make enough money to quit their day jobs - are entirely ordinary people who love to talk to their fans and don't really think of themselves as all that special.