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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ARE YOU PLAYING FOR KEEPS OR JUST PLAYING?




 Kristin Lamb wrote an intriguing post on how to write NO MATTER WHAT:

She points out that many of our noted writers were journalists, but forgot the two most famous:

 Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway.


When the bullets are flying and the forest fire blazing, your editor does not have time to wait for your muse to become inspired.


She equates journalism with blogging since it is a form of digital journalism.


And she is right: 

We have to be concise, engaging, and convey the most information using the fewest words possible.



BUT IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR STORY …



Your novel is going nowhere.   

It will be buried under “wonderful moments” that tug at the heart and stalls your story.  


What is the story of LOTR

Is it Frodo throwing the Ring into the river of fire in Modor, or is it Frodo finding Frodo?


What is the story of GONE WITH THE WIND?   

Is it Scarlett hopelessly chasing Ashely Wilkes or vainly trying to retrieve the vanished South she loved?




LEARN TO SEE WHAT IS AROUND YOU.



Take the first face you see in the next crowd. Describe it in ways that would draw in a reader and accurately display what your eyes see.


What follows each major scene in your novel?  If it does not turn the reader’s expectation upside down, you’re going to bore her.




DRAW YOUR READER INTO YOUR NOVEL BY MAKING THEM PART OF IT.



How to do that?   

Give them a character to root for, to relate to.  All humans bleed, hope, have their hearts broken.  


Have your heroine suffer those universal blows.   

Better yet have your antagonist suffer them as well.




BE A DO-ER NOT A DREAMER.



Write every day.  Even if it is only a paragraph.  Write every day.


Make a Bonzai tree out of your novel.   

If you write 5 pages in the morning, refine them to 3 in the evening.


SAY IT IN QUALITY NOT QUANTITY.


November is coming up.  Forget volumeFocus on value.

Have you ever read a novel and groaned, "Just get to the point!"

Don't do that to your reader.   

Raymond Chandler once wrote: "She gave him a look that jutted four inches out of his back."

ShortPunchyFunny.

It made me want to read on.

I hope that this helped in some small way.  If not, read Kristen Lamb's blog.  I know she will help you.




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

UPDATE -- WE ARE WATCHING YOU!


{Image courtesy of Tea Bladez}

D.G., Wendy, and other of my friends read my post of yesterday 

and wrote they would promptly turn off their cell phones when not in use to prevent government snooping.

Ah, those pesky buggers have thought of that.

Can someone truly bring your phone back to life without touching it? 

No.

 But government spies can get your phone to play dead. 

 The NSA or the FBI can set up their own miniature cell network tower.

Your phone automatically connects to it. 

Now, that tower's radio waves send a command to your phone's antennae: the baseband chip.

That tells your phone to fake any shutdown and stay on.

A smart hack won't keep your phone running at 100%, though.

Spies could keep your phone on standby and just use the microphone -- or send pings announcing your location.

The only way you can tell is if your phone feels warm when it's turned off.

That means the baseband processor is still running.

Scary, right?

There literally is no place to hide. 

Murderers can remain at large for years, but let you get on the wrong side of the Intelligence Agencies -- BAM!

Of course, your phone does not have to be turned on to tattle on you.

 The software inside your phone pinpoints you whether it is on or not.

How?

Something in your phone known as an accelerometer.

It's a tiny chip inside your phone that measures whether you're holding your phone horizontally or vertically, 

so the phone can alter its screen accordingly.

But in the same way your fingerprints are yours alone, so is your phone's signal.

Those imperfections mean your phone's unique signal can make your habits easy to track whenever your phone is in use.

Your phone's camera, gyroscope and microphones, among other parts, make you vulnerable as well.

That's any cell phone, too. Sigh.

 And it is NOT JUST THE GOVERNMENT:

Monday, August 25, 2014

FLIES CAUGHT IN CYBER AMBER



Remember that scene in MINORITY REPORT,
 
where Tom Cruise is on the run from the law,
 
but is unable to avoid detection because everywhere he goes
 
there are constant retina scans feeding his location back to a central database?
 
That’s Tomorrow.
 
Today, Google is tracking wherever your smartphone goes, and putting an ominous Red dot on a map to mark the occasion.
 
You can find that map here.
 
All you need to do is log in with the same account you use on your phone,
 
and the record of everywhere you’ve been for the last day to month will erupt across your screen like measles.
 
googlemap
We deny the cyber intrusion into our lives. 
 
We watch the latest on the Kardashians or Miley or Taylor, pop a diet soda,
 
and force the murmur of Big Brother into the back of our minds.
 
But just one look at a map of your movements for the past few days in Red, pimp-slaps some reality back into you.
 
Yet, we can trust the government, right?  Until you look towards Ferguson.
 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

WHO HAS SEEN THE WIND?


 
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
                     - Christina Rossetti
 
 
 Popular literature has always denoted what society is running towards ... and from

 Take Horror.
 
 Horror Fiction authors and films have to appeal to the public interest,
 
 so the horror within their story has to reflect society’s current view of what is fearful.
 
 Consequently from this you can understand the context from when it was written.
 
 So if books begin to write more about the perverse nature of man, does this indicate a more perverse society?
 
 
 In another genere, great Crime fiction offers what no sociology text can provide,
 
 To feel the living, breathing essence of New Orleans, both pre- and post-Katrina,
 check out the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke.
 
 
 In like manner, Rock Music remains the most democratic of mass media—
 
 the only one in which voices from the margins of society can still be heard out loud.
 It does not so much influence society as reflect it.
 
 Take our current movie fascination with the Superhero --
 
 
What is a hero? 
There are many views on that. 
 
Part of the definition
would contain the thought
 
that a hero embodies what is best in ourselves,
rising above what we feel is the worst in us all.
 
 
 I believe CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER reflects the quandry of the common man
 in today's society --
 
 trying to fit into a world that no longer seems to believe in anything much beyond power and self-interest.
 
 It is the classic story of the Child learning that Adulthood was a tarnished dream after all.
 
 It is telling that every hero that enters into public consciousness has experienced 
 significant trauma in his or her life that has practically defined them,
 
 a trauma that serves to motivate them in their lives as superheroes
 
 (Batman and Spider-Man serve, of course. as the perfect examples),

  traumas to which they are, and will always be, unable to reconcile themselves or fully resolve.
 
 But though both Batman and Spider-Man will, out of necessity, never be able to reconcile
 their respective traumas, they do, in fact, manage to live with them ...
 
 As must we all -- and perhaps that is our fascination with superheroes:
 
that they do well what the rest of us struggle through day by day.
 
What do you think? 
What makes a hero? 
 
Does our literature, our entertainments
reflect who we are?
 
Is the emphasis on Lust rather than Love
in 50 SHADES OF GRAY symbolic
of what is felt
throughout our society?
 

Friday, August 22, 2014

THE DISTORTING MIRROR


 
Life has many distorting mirrors. 
 
Myth is one of them.  History, too, for it is written only by the winners.
 
 
Some time back, I wrote of driving down the Creole Nature Trail to a hospital on stilts.

Several of you have asked to see a photo of my hospital on stilts.

Sadly, like my character, Samuel McCord, I am a man of high hopes and low tech ...


meaning I have no digital camera.

But I do have this photo of the stilts before the hospital was placed upon them from the groundbreaking ceremony attended by former President Bush and actor George Clooney.

Fitting in with my post's title, these steel "stilts" are twice as tall as I am.



Perspective is everything.


Look at all the politicians we've elected, only to discover how stunted their high ideals are after the fact.

But the distorting mirror I'm referring to is fiction.


Fiction is not reflective of real life.

Unlike real life, fiction has to make sense. So we as authors fudge the facts of life to draw the reader in with the illusion of reality.

As Stephen King said: good fiction is the truth within the lie.What kind of literature did you first read?

I mean the genre that you chose to read and not your parents? The question is important. I'll tell you why in a moment.

As a young boy recently moved to Lafayette, Louisiana from Detroit, Michigan, I was isolated because of my strange accent, my lanky height, and lack of relatives.


I was the stranger, the outcast.

I found refuge in mythology.

My mother's tales of Lakota myths and Irish legends spurred me to investigate the school library on my own.


I discovered Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY:

awe-inspiring tales of fearsome creatures, strong half-gods, and cunning heroes.

Zeus wasn't my father, but I could sharpen my wits to become Ulysses, who confounded the very gods of Olympus.

And the elegant, simple drawings by Steele Savage ensnared my imagination during boring classes.

I accepted these things as a child would -- uncritically.


My only measure was if I enjoyed the story.

Later as I grew a bit older -- able to reflect and reason, I found Sherlock Holmes and science fiction.

And in those twin genres, I discovered the value of reason -- but then Ulysses had already taught me the treasure of a keen mind.

And how I discovered the joy of reading influenced my style of writing.


As you no doubt have noticed, mythology plays an important part in my writing.

The lyrical poetry of Homer and the other Greek playwrights molded my sense of the dramatic and of expression.

Yet, even as my soul demands magic and poetry,


my mind is not satisfied unless I put reason behind the mad sorcery of my hero's adventures.

In essence, I do not write pure fantasy or pure science fiction -- but a blend of the two,

mixed in with the genre of the detective -- hence the frontier detective, Samuel McCord, part poet, part philosopher, and reluctant policeman.

But what of the distorting mirror?

Inside my, and your, brain is a compact world composed of all we have seen and experienced.


From that well, we draw for inspiration and stories.


Yet, that compact world is not
THE world.


We haven't experienced everything.

And the conclusions we have drawn from our experiences are as flawed as our limited grasp of the truth, colored as it is by culture, custom, and character.

Our novels are merely distorted reflections of what we have experienced.


Even we will admit that more is unknown to us than what is known.

Which to me is quite all right:

myths spring from the unknown and our trying to fill in the blanks.

History has proven to us that what was considered science last century was merely flawed, failed conjecture.


Which to me is just fine:

science fiction springs from those awesome two words:

What if?

So my fiction is a blend of myth and science, history and conjecture, ending into those wonderful words:




what if the impossible was possible? What then?

In the calculated lies of my fiction, I leave certain questions unanswered, certain areas shadowed for the reader to fill in.

Remember the scariest movie monster you ever flinched in fright from?


You never got a clear glimpse: just flashes of scales, slit eyes, and red, sharp teeth.

That was enough.

Your imagination filled in the rest with enough to give you shudders for sleepless nights afterward.

Besides, I do not know everything, and the artist in me craves to be honest.


The mythic beginning of things is always shrouded in mist and mystery.

Yet, this I do know:

In life there is dark as well as light -- and sometimes the dark wins.


I try to portray the full picture of what I know in my fiction. The fanciful scientist is often the one who makes the greatest discovery.


I guess you could call my genre: science fantasy.



Cold, hard facts can often lead us into the shadows where the dark unknown is waiting for us to reveal our minds' limitations and our fragile grasp on sanity and life.


So now, I re-ask you:




What kind of literature did you first start to read of your own free will?
 
Look at what you are writing now.
 
Look at how you write it.
Can you see the seeds of your style, your genre, in your first chosen books?


Let me know what you first started to read.
 
Tell me if my theory is reflected in the genres in which you write and the manner in which you write them.
 
Let's share secrets over the cyber-campfire, shall we? Bring your own cyber-marshmellows.
*******************
Here is Tarja singing
SLEEPING SUN
which evokes the spirit of this post: 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS?

Why the title

WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS?

All writers I believe write in the crosshairs.

If you have beta readers and have submitted to agents/editors,


you know the feeling of being in the crosshairs of their evaluations.

Ouch. But no pain, no gain.

But I am thinking of the imagry of the hunter.


He fixes his aim at his target, looking through his scope.

The image is hardly crisp at the beginning. He must adjust the lens to achieve crisp clarity and the best chance of hitting his target.


Writers are like that hunter.
 

At first the image of our tale is blurry.


We tighten the focus with revealing dialogue, vibrant characters, engaging crises, and creative descriptions.

Pacing and plot tighten the image even more. Sometimes we get it with dead-on clarity. Most times we don't.

No one but Shakespeare is perfect. If you don't believe me, ask Harold Bloom or any university English professor.



It is a tricky endeavor writing in the crosshairs.


How do we focus quicksilver humans into concrete mental images?


Take flames. They look like objects but are really processes.

Humans are like that as well. No human actually is complete. He or she is in the process of becoming.



But becoming what? We answer that question with our choices.

But there is more to my title than that.


We all write the movie of our lives in the crosshairs.


That endeavor is more tricky. We don't get the luxury of time to reflect, muse, or ponder at leisure.


Life is a harsh mistress. As we struggle, she flashes us that "beauty-queen" smile:

all sharp teeth and no heart. And in her games of chance, the House ultimately wins.


Like Indiana Jones we must make it up as we go along.
 


We plan and prepare.

Life gleefully throws her monkey wrench into our preparations.

We must write our lives in the crosshairs of illness, accidents, dysfunctional humans, and our own inner demons.

We are all in Life's crosshairs, and none of us know when she will pull the trigger. We just know that she will.


This is what my blog is all about:


How to maintain a measure of grace and peace in the crosshairs of Life.


I haven't figured it out yet.

Let me know what helps with you.

I am currently listening to "Follow Me" from the anime Innocence.

The romance of my haunted, undead Texas Ranger, Samuel McCord, and his immortal love, Meilori Shinseen, seem to linger among those lyrics like the ghost traces of a moonbeam.

Here is a music video I think you may like:

***

***
Please consider pre-ordering my HIBBS THE CUB WITH NO CLUE:
http://www.amazon.com/HIBBS-CUB-CLUE-Roland-Yeomans-ebook/dp/B00MT8DNLY/

Chris Pratt showed up at Children's Hospital Los Angeles on Wednesday night in full Ravager garb.  Notice Hibbs in the painting behind Chris and the young boy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PARIS ALONG THE NILE_WEP "Change" Entry

Don't miss Wendy Morrell's fabulous post on my
HIBBS, THE CUB WITH NO CLUE!


Denise Covey has her WEP prompt this month as TAKING CHANCES.

My entry is from my WIP
Set in 1895 Egypt,
starring my undead hero, Samuel McCord

The snippet is entitled ...


PARIS ALONG THE NILE

          “One must have a mind of winter to behold the nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”
- Wallace Stevens


Both Susy and Clara Clemens became little girls again as they gasped and pointed at the ornate buildings we soon passed on our way to the State Ball.  I wonder what their perspectives, their take on the world allowed them to see.  I saw … many things.

Cairo was a battleground.  First fought over by the French, now ruled pompously by the British.  It was even a retreat for former officers of the American Confederacy. 

The Cairo Susy and Clara wondered at was the city that Khedive Ismail built, with the help of his master builder and Minister of Public Works, Ali Mubarak … with the European money that would eventually steal the common Egyptian's freedom and give it to the great banking empires of the west.
The city’s buildings were built during this time when ruthless European powers vied for Egypt and won her from her people, but in the course of things, a grand city was laid out.

So while Susy and Clara saw a city of magic, I saw a city of foreign occupation, heartbreak, and harsh living for most of its peoples.  Stuffshirts like Lord Cromer thought he knew the Egyptian people. 

He only knew his prejudices.  He imposed them on the people here when he should have been deriving facts from them.  Life was induction not living out your prejudices on people too weak to fight back.

The people: merchant, farmer, beggar, child – they all lived in fear and anxiety.  If they offended the wrong tourist, failed to get out of the way in time, not have the increased taxes, birthed a beautiful daughter that those in power coveted, they were in danger of losing what little they had, including their lives. 

A lifetime of that kind of worry gnawed at their hearts, their sense of who they were.

It bred a seething anger – an anger they could not vent on the British who fueled it.  And the only thing they could do with all that anger was to vent it out on one another … usually over trivial things … because something had to matter in their lives.

If their lives were so impoverished that there were no things which were important, then things had to be assigned importance arbitrarily and defended at great risk. Because the risk validated the importance. 

Something, someone had to be important in their thread-bare lives – even if they had to blindly latch onto that something, that someone blindly and hopelessly.

Beside me, Meilori sighed, “Did ever any kingdom or state regain its liberty, when once it was invaded, without bloodshed? I cannot think of it without horror.”
Don't forget about
HIBBS, THE CUB WITH NO CLUE
Available for pre-order:

FERGUSON AND A BEHEADING


Has the world gone a little crazy while I  was 
busy making a living?

Where are our leaders?  Sigh.

The next time the government asks you to trust them on a particular matter, just point to Ferguson and say, "What was that again?"

Sesame Street told us Mr. Policeman was our friend, 

but what Cookie Monster failed to add was that was only if the color of our faces matched the policeman's.

Remember that time Ferguson police beat an innocent suspect and then charged him with getting blood on their uniforms?

Where was the govenor?  

He was interested in a place on the 2016 national ticket on a visit to Iowa and a trip to Colorado to huddle with major Democratic donors.

Where was he on August 10th when local businesses were looted and burned to the ground? 

The Police Chief was silent as to who shot the unarmed 18 year old,

lending credence to the suspicion the Police were covering up something.  Sigh.

A little common sense, a bit of empathy (covering the body of the dead man), and lack of white wash would have made all the difference.

Did anyone think to tell the public that under riot conditions, the right to assembly vanishes?

The looters and burners of businesses hurt the protests of police excesses not helped them by creating riot conditions.

The First Amendment guarantees only the right “peaceably to assemble.”

Why do you think Rev. King's non-violent protests, despite police brutality, won the day?  He gave them no LEGAL excuse for their actions.

There was idiocy on both sides -

Demonstrators gather in front of the QuikTrip convenience store that was burned down during the first night of protesting and looting as if to say "See what we do at night if we're upset?"

At a press conference held by Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal asks if she would be gassed by Ferguson police again. He tells her he hopes not.

A Twitter account affiliated with the hacktivist collective Anonymous leaks the personal information of the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. 

The man identified is not even an officer with Ferguson or St. Louis County PD.

And Obama's lack luster speech?

It is the sad truth of politics that where a President leads his critics will less likely follow ... even if he is right and they know it.

The terrorists of the world must laugh at the footage of Ferguson being shown nightly.

Speaking of terrorists ...

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned what it called journalist James Foley's "barbaric murder by beheading" by the Islamic State,

which says his killing was retribution for recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

Will anything be done by America?  Not enough.  And James Foley will still be dead.

Wash out your mind with little Hibbs, the Cub With No Clue:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MT8DNLY