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Monday, 26 December 2005
Christmas in the Mountains
Mood:  special
Topic: Other stuff
Christmas has come and gone in the mountains of West Virginia, and I must say, it's been a great season so far this year. With the new year looming in the not-so-distant future and Christmas morning a warm, happy memory, I think we're doing okay.

Between my parents and my husband and I, my little boy got just about everything on his list. At three years old, he didn't have much of a list, but it's still difficult to get what will make your child most happy on a limited budget. Through the generosity of my parents and grandmother, however, we were able to pull it off. The little one was happy as a clam, and I was just as happy to see his face and hear his reactions as he opened his gifts.

The food we had over the past couple of days was wonderful, as well. Two turkey dinners and a ham dinner later, I think I'm still so stuffed I don't want to move. It was all just so...yummy...I look forward to all the good food every year.

Yes, this is a sappy post. No, there's nothing here you can't find on countless other blogs. That's not what's important, though. What's important is that all of us that are posting our post-Christmas bliss are thankful for what we have. Some of us may not have much (like me), but by golly, we love what we've got. I'm so thankful to be able to share the holidays with family members that I love, to be able to laugh and smile and feel good about being a member of a great couple of families.

The only thing about the Christmas season that I missed this year is the presence of friends that are like family to my husband and I. Over the summer, they moved from "reasonably close" to "a little too far away". For nearly ten years now, my husband and I have done nearly everything with this other couple - we've gotten married together, had children together, spent time in each other's homes and done all the things that families do together. This year, for the first time in a long time, we were unable to be together (due to work schedules and such). I really missed that, and would give the world to be able to see them soon. It doesn't look like we'll be able to get together until the middle of January or February, though.

If that family is reading this, Merry Christmas, ya'll, we love you and miss you very much.


Posted by wvwritergirl at 2:09 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 26 December 2005 2:11 AM EST
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Thursday, 24 November 2005
A film with a lesson
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Advice
There are movies that you watch because they're just fun, and there are movies that make you think, and then there are movies that teach you a lesson while entertaining you. The last on the list are quite possibly my favorite films; they're the ones that stick with me the longest, and make me look at myself on the inside with a little bit of a different filter.

I should be in bed tonight, but one of those films is on at the moment and I never cease to find inspiration and a chance for inner thought in the film. I'm sure by now you're wondering what the movie is.

The Legend of Bagger Vance. Yep, a golf movie. A lot of critics and people I know thought the movie was horrible - a bad move on the parts of both Wil Smith and Matt Damon, but I think the movie is quite possibly one of thier best performances.

It is also a movie that I encourage anyone who is in a rut - emotionally, in thier writing life, in any career or any thing - to watch. I've found myself in that well-known rut (see below post) and I've tried everything I can think of, including sounding like a crazy person, talking to my characters and apologizing to them for the world to see it. I've been trying too hard, worrying too much about what others think to let my true, authentic heart come through. That is the lesson I've learned from watching The Legend of Bagger Vance for the oh, sixth or seventh time tonight. I don't need to think about it more; I don't need to worry about whether anyone likes what I write or not; I don't even need to worry about whether or not I like what I've written. I need to let my fingers, which are far more intelligent than my head, take over, and lose myself in the moment.

It's funny how something so simple as a movie can help you find your way out of the darkness you've imposed on your own soul; like Junuh in the movie, I have my own private demons of my past to fight against, demons that keep me from being my true self and allowing my heart to flow into my fingers. It has nothing to do with arguments with characters or problems with a plot. It has to do with me. The Legend of Bagger Vance taught me that, and a lot more. I suggest you let it teach you something, too.

Posted by wvwritergirl at 2:33 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005 2:36 AM EST
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Wednesday, 23 November 2005
A public apology
Mood:  not sure
Topic: Writing
I know this seems like "story-hopping", but I have a confession to make. I have a bunch of good ideas for new stories that would probably pan out in the long run if I could just get the gumption together to write one of them. The problem is, my heart is in another story. I wrote the Cona'Doar Chronicles (hereafter CDC) book I about a year and a half ago, knowing going in that the story was much too big to tell in one book. I knew there would have to be more than one volume when I typed the first word of the first draft. My muse was (and still is) my main character, Flick. She's a lot like me fifteen years ago and a thousand years removed. Her traveling companion, Cislin, has a lot of my sensiblities as an adult, but I relate the most to Flick. Unfortunately, I haven't been very nice to her since the book finished the editing process and went out into the great big world looking for an agent or a publisher.

I've bullied her, called her names, ignored her in favor of characters who are just as important to the story, but not as important to me. She's been neglected in the worse sense of the word, and I haven't been able to make a respectful start to the second book because of it. I've failed miserably in the five or six attempts that I've made. Flick's become a petulant child in the second book, something that is distinctly NOT in her character. She's unsure, yes. She's curious. She's afraid. But she isn't petulant, a bitch, silly, stupid or any of the other words I've called her in my mind in the past nine months or so.

Her attitude (listen to me, I sound like a crazy lady) has stifled every part of my writing. I've been producing servicable stories, but nothing I've been exceptionally proud of and nothing that I can say my whole heart has been in. I've chalked this up to being a writer - writing what sells, what the readers and editors and publishers want - not to the fact that my poor little muse, my Flick, is sulking in the corner, refusing to speak to me, refusing to tell me her story.

So, to that end, I offer a public apology to Flick. Perhaps she will allow me back in, and give me the rest of what I so hungrily took from her in the beginning. It was selfish - and now I realize that it was more for her that CDC I was written, not for me. She's just a voice inside my head, but one that has a tale to tell, and a voice that I should listen to if I would like to have anything worth reading come from my fingers.

I'm sorry, Flick. It won't happen again.

Posted by wvwritergirl at 1:46 AM EST
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Sunday, 13 November 2005
So, I couldn't sleep last night...
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Writing
When I finally decided it was bedtime last night (oh, at around 3:30AM or so), I found that I couldn't go to sleep.

I've been struggling with an idea I had for a new novel, and I just wasn't liking the direction it was going. Mark of the Maker had become a tattooed Harry Potter, and that was something that I just didn't want. I needed a new direction, a new angle to look at the whole concept. Last night, while struggling for sleep, I got it. And I think I can still use just a little of what I've already written; all I have to do is tweak it a bit to better fit into the new tangent.

My major problem now is an antagonist. Evil for evil's sake in fantasy is bad, bad juju - I need to give this antagonist a reason for his hatred, and a reason why he wants to bring down not just the Makers, but the world. Do you know how hard it is to flesh out the personality of a person you don't like, from the get-go, because you're not supposed to like them? It's near impossible. I need to bring this person on the scene fairly early, too, because I want the novel to have an urgent feeling about it.

Nonetheless, I plan on writing quite a bit today. It's early yet, and I'm still working on the caffeine infusion, but the spark's still there, and it's growing steadily into an ember. This evening, it will be a flame.

I can't wait to re-start Mark of the Maker. It's a story I've thought about for a long time; all that's needed now is to fill in the gaps with what happens between.

Posted by wvwritergirl at 11:26 AM EST
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Saturday, 12 November 2005
I got my copies - do you have yours?
Mood:  happy
Topic: Other stuff
I got my copies of Stories of Strength today, and I've already read over 60 pages! (Those who know me know that's the exception rather than the rule - I'm an unusually slow reader).

The book is beautiful, and the writing is twice as beautiful. I'm also glad that I got to be a part of something that could help so many more people than I could on my own.

So far, from what I've read, I'd give the antology five stars and two thumbs way up.

I got my copies - now, where's yours?

Posted by wvwritergirl at 11:19 PM EST
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Sunday, 6 November 2005
Stuff I've Been Working On
Mood:  not sure
Topic: Writing
In the past few weeks, I have been working. In fact, in just three nights, I finished two short stories. "Commitment", a horror piece about a toe and "Singing Them Down", another horror piece about a family legacy. I'm pretty pleased with both of them, but they're finished, not completed, which means they haven't suffered through the first round of editing yet. Hopefully, that'll be a task I'll tackle next week.

The "Stories of Strength" Anthology is out and doing mighty fine. If you haven't already, go look for it at www.lulu.com or, even better, at the book's webpage at www.storiesofstrength.com, and order a copy. It's well worth the money - the book is awesome - and it's for a wonderful cause, too.

Well, let's see...in the past three days, total word count for "Commitment" and "Singing Them Down" is: 4000 words (approximately)


Posted by wvwritergirl at 1:54 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005 1:57 PM EST
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Saturday, 29 October 2005
Writing lesson, vol. III
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Garden of Allah, Don Henley
Topic: Instructional
Subjectivity

That's what we're going to talk about today. Writing is very subjective - you never know what is going to interest or completely turn off your readers. The same goes for genre writing.

Horror and humor are two of the most subjective genres. What is funny or scary to one person may not be funny or scary to another; but, there is a trick to writing good horror or humor.

The trick is to write what you think is funny or scary yourself, and write it with conviction. I can't speak to humor so much, but I do write a fair bit of horror, and I know from experience. Concepts or situations that you find frightening, but may not be frightening to others, when written with conviction can seem frightening to others. You're suspending the disbelief of your reader by imposing your impressions of the concept or situation upon them, showing the reader these things in a way that they may not have thought of before.

The subjectivity of these particular genres can work for or against a writer; the good writer will make them work for them by writing with conviction.

Today's word count on short story "Singing Them Down": 1,542

Posted by wvwritergirl at 2:12 AM EDT
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Thursday, 6 October 2005
Writing lesson, vol. II
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Instructional
Today, I'm going to try and give you a little more advice on becoming a good writer. Take my advice for what its worth - that of an unpublished author struggling to get published. Any writing tips I offer here are things that have worked for me in the past, and that I think might work for you, too.

One of the things that I have found most helpful in developing my own voice (which is an entirely different lesson altogether) is by reading the works of other authors. I enjoy reading to begin with, so it hasn't been difficult for me to read a lot.

I can hear you now, sitting there at your computer screen saying, "Oh, ok, no biggie. I read (my genre) all the time!" Well, yes and no. It's good that you read within your genre. It gives you an idea of what's going on in the world of publishing in your chosen field, but it also gives you a rather limited view of the publishing world as a whole. And, if you think about it, it's giving you a limited education, as well. If you write fantasy and all you ever read is fantasy, you're finding out what the fantasy agents and publishers were interested in picking up last year, not what they want to buy tomorrow or six months from tomorrow.

Read everything you can get your hands on. Learn character development from a mystery novel, voice from horror, scene-setting from literary works. You can even learn from magazine and newspaper articles. While the style of fiction writing shouldn't be journalistic, the way journalists describe a scene of a crime or disaster or any other happening can teach you a lot about what is important and what isn't important to setting a scene.

Research is also an important component of reading. I personally write in the fantasy genre, but that doesn't preclude me from doing research when the piece calls for it. Ahh, I can hear you again, "But it's fantasy, just make it up!" Nope, can't do that all the time. You want your readers to believe what they're reading, at least while they've got your book in their hands. Doing that requires research (but research is also another topic for another day).

For now, get in the habit of reading, and reading outside your genre. Read for entertainment, but also take note of the author's style, characterization, and the plot devices he or she uses throughout their writing. By understanding these elements in the works of others, you will become a stronger writer yourself, and will be well on your way to developing your own voice and distinct writing style.

Good luck, fellow writers!

Posted by wvwritergirl at 11:40 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 4 October 2005
Been a while, ain't it?
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Writing
Yeah, I know, it's been quite a while since I updated the blog, and here I promised myself that I would do it often, as a means of inspiriation and motivation to write. I have been feeling guilty, but I've had a rather busy weekend, and it's only now settling down so that I can write some. Friday I had the husband's graduation from regional jail academy, Saturday I roasted a turkey with all the trimmings for company who came and stayed overnight until Sunday afternoon, and then yesterday and today my husband was home from work and commandeered the internet, therefore, no posting. Yeah, I could have written some off-line, but my heart wasn't in it.

That's no excuse. I should have BIC time every day, whether I want to or not and whether or not what I write is crap. It's the practice that counts, don't you think?

Therefore, word count for 09/30 - 10/04/05: 0

Posted by wvwritergirl at 11:53 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 27 September 2005
I'm gonna learn you something today
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Instructional
I've been writing seriously for a relatively short time (about four years or so) and although my fiction isn't published yet, that doesn't mean I have stopped writing and trying to submit. It's like any other profession - unless you put in the effort, you won't see the results.

But that's not what this post is about. I thought I'd give away a little bit of the secret of "how I do it". My techniques may work for some, and may be completely off base for others. Take my advice for what it is - that of an unpublished writer, struggling to get my fiction out into the world.

I get my story ideas from many different places; I tend to eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers, I people-watch, I like to look at fantsay art, and I watch a lot of historical/educational programming on channels like TLC, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, etc.

Each of these sources spur very different story types. I'm going to run through each of them, and give you an idea of what I'm talking about and how I've gotten ideas from them in the past:

1. Eavesdropping and people-watching
For the dialogue-driven writer, this method can be invaluable. If a certain phrase or snippet of conversation you've overheard is the basis of a story for you, you know what I'm talking about. I don't use this method myself very often, as my characters are usually created first and it's their conversations that get the ball rolling, but I know of many authors who swear by this method.

2. Fantasy Art
This is my biggest inspiration for short story writing. I can find a piece of fantasy art that I like (usually from someone like Boris Villejo or Julie Bell) and then I ask questions of myself about it. If the artist has written a description of the picture detailing what he or she thinks it's about, I usually avoid that - after all, the story will be about what I thnk the picture's about. I ask questions like, "What was he/she doing to get here?", "What is he/she going to do next?", and "What events that have happened or will happen are influencing what's happening to this person?". The best by far, however, is the good 'ole "What if..." question. Take the answers you give yourself for these questions (and any others you may ask yourself about the picture) and voila! You've got a story! Now. Go write it.

3. Television Programs
A lot of my longer works have been inspired by educational or historical documentary-type TV programs. I love watching TLC, Discovery, the History Channel and the Travel Channel. I may not incorporate ancient Egypt into my work in progress (WIP), but I will take elements I've learned from the programs and incorporate them into my WIP. It helps to make your world and the people who populate it feel "more real" when you base them on actual places or cultural norms. Also, you've got a handy reference for your world or culture you can look at any time you need to for that added bit of detail. And people say TV's bad for you. Pshaw.

These are only a few of the tools I've used over the years to develop my skill. As I'm becoming more and more serious about writing as a career and not just a "hobby", I find I'm developing more and more skills every day, learning new things about writing in general and my own style, as well. As a writer, we must learn to adapt. Adapt to everything from family and job situations to our own inner moods.

I hope this has helped a little for any of those who know they have the talent and the ability, but are struggling with the source.

Posted by wvwritergirl at 1:03 PM EDT
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