Archive for April, 2012


Guest Post by Aaron

I Can’t Be A Writer When I’m Done With School, Can I?

Aaron C. Tate, April 2012

www.sonarbooks.com

This week, the PreK-8 in which I teach is celebrating spirit week.  As part of the festivities, students come to school dressed in different themes, ranging from Color Day to Moustache Day to Heritage Day.  Today is Career Day, and students have arrived representing virtually every possible career under the sun.  From doctors and nurses, to professional athletes, to teachers, and even to fast food mascots, it appears that nothing has been left out.

Well, almost nothing.

As I’ve observed students interacting with one another today, I’ve heard “What are you dressed up as?” and “What do you want to be?” asked over and over.  And, over and over, I’ve heard with excitement the standard “I’m gonna be a (fill in the blank)!” in response.  As an educator and a self-proclaimed life-long learner, I am encouraged by the discussions that today’s theme are generating.  After all, thinking about one’s future is a good thing, right?

Unfortunately, today’s activities also left me feeling somewhat unsure as well.  This is because, only once so far, have I heard the following conversation take place, and my guess is that it’ll be the only time:

Student A: “Hey, what’re you dressed up as?”

Student B, dressed up in normal clothing: “I’m a writer.  Duh!”

This is interesting to me, and got me to thinking: career or not, why is it that more students don’t consider writing long-term beyond their school years?  Is it because it’s harder to picture “being” an author than it is to picture being a mechanic, a politician, or a football player?  Is it because creative writing tends to take a back seat to the dreaded 5-paragraph essay in schools today, thus leading to burnout and disinterest where writing is concerned?  Is it because putting one’s thoughts and stories out there for everybody to read is scary enough to dissuade even the most hardened extrovert from ever considering pursuing such a goal/career?  Or is it because writing simply never takes root in a child’s life, given that there are so many other distractions that assume priority from day to day?

Regardless of the reasons, today was eye-opening for me.

As someone that has always, and will always, embed non-fiction literacy strategies into the science classes that I teach, I’ve always thought I’ve been doing my part to get kids reading and writing.  However, because of the “a-ha” moment I experienced today, I’m now left to wonder if I need to do more.  In addition to emphasizing non-fiction literacy strategies, should I also be emphasizing creative writing just as heavily?  Also, as someone that is an almost-yet-to-be-published-author-that-didn’t-even-start-creatively-writing-until-the-age-of-29-himself, do I have an obligation to push creative writing in the hopes that it might spark long-term interest in one or more of my students at an earlier age?

Well, it certainly couldn’t hurt, that’s for sure.  And it’s not like I wouldn’t be able to effectively incorporate creative writing into my classes.  It’d be real easy, for instance, to have students write a story from an atom’s point of view, or to describe the final hours of the dinosaurs in vivid detail.  Therefore, as I continue reflecting on this, and as I begin planning for the upcoming school year this summer, I’m certain that I’ll make it a point to include more creative writing activities than I ever have before.  And who knows?  Maybe doing so will cause me to hear “I’m gonna be a writer!” more than once during the next career day.

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.
~ Leo Rosten

 

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Guest Post by Gilda Evans

THE QUICK CHANGE ARTIST
by Gilda Evans
So…you’ve decided to move in together or even get married.  And then some time goes by.  And suddenly, the person you thought you were married to, begins to morph into someone you never knew.  The true colors – personality traits, irksome quirks, idiosyncrasies – that bother, irritate and are downright adversarial begin to surface and you wonder how you could have been so blind.  Well, maybe you weren’t.  Maybe they’re just very well-versed in the art of “quick change.”   It’s amazing how many people are capable of hiding the true nature of themselves if it inures to their own selfish schemes.  If getting you to say “I do” was one of them, then you fell into their trap – and now it’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do about it.  If you are unfortunate enough to find that children have come into the mix in the meantime, then you’ve really got your hands full.  Why this person chose to hide their true nature in the first place could be one of many reasons – they’re escaping from an old relationship and looking to you to “rescue” them.  They’ve been around long enough to learn what others want in a relationship and have learned to play the game until they get past a certain point and can let their guard down.  They are lonely and desperate and will do anything to get someone to commit – and then watch out!  Who knows?  So, what do you do?  Do you stay in a bad marriage if there are kids involved?  Do you go to counseling and try to make it better?  Personally, my belief is that a leopard really can’t change its spots.  Once they reveal their true nature, no amount of counseling is going to overcome a basic character that just doesn’t mesh with yours.  (A lobotomy maybe – just kidding!)  That’s not to say that counseling is never an option – but that usually works best when the issues in the marriage are more specific, and not just a general conflict of personalities.  And if there are kids – that’s a tough one.  While you don’t want to deprive your kids of a parent in the house, it’s also not good to have them be witness to a relationship that isn’t working, is adversarial and creates tension and a negative atmosphere to grow up in.  The best advice I can offer in that circumstance is to do what your heart is telling you.  For what it’s worth, at this point in my life I can tell you that if I have even the slightest inkling that the person I’m with is hiding something – either about themselves or about their life in general – that’s my cue to exit, stage left.  I have absolutely no interest in being used, misled or treated in a fashion that is less than I deserve.  A relationship that’s working is honest from A to Z.  It’s easy, comfortable and any work it takes to maintain the relationship (and they do take work) is a joy to perform.  If the relationship you’re in is anything less than that, then you may want to consider the alternatives.  After all, a life is a terrible thing to waste…especially if it’s yours!

Guest Post by Eric Black

Read up my darklings.  A fellow AKA writer has guest posted for my blog.  The Gremlins continue to wreak havoc on us.  :0  lol

The Gremlins in my Head

By Eric M. Black

www.ericmblack.com/blog

 

I remember as a kid watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, and there was one particular episode that had to do with gremlins.  The gremlins were actually quite cute, but destructive.   In that episode, they dismantled airplanes.

 

Fast forward a few years to a movie with the title “Gremlins.”  Wow! – did that just change everything or what?  No longer were gremlins cute little creatures that took apart airplanes, now they were scary.

 

This leads me to my point.  Are the gremlins in my head those cute gremlins a la Bugs Bunny or are they the destructive, evil gremlins that were created because they ate after midnight?  Let me explain.  Sometimes when I write, one of my characters is facing one of those moments.  You know, when everything will change for him.  At that moment, the gremlins kick in.  Sometimes, they are the Looney Tunes gremlins, and I just mess with the character a little.  I might give him a flat tire on the way to an important meeting or have him miss a flight because he was selected for a random baggage search at the airport.  And then…sometimes it is the movie gremlins.  When that happens, all bets are off, and you can almost guarantee that someone is going to die.

 

So what causes these gremlins?  Isn’t it strange that someone would have a gremlin battle in their head while they write?  I agree.  But at the same time, I’m glad they are there.  It’s after midnight – anyone want a snack?

Here you go.  This is a post from one of my very best friends who happens to be a writer.  Let’s all hope the we have book launch gremlins too. 🙂

As any writer knows, there are little creatures known as Launch Gremlins. Whenever a writer has an imminent book launch, these gremlins emerge from wherever they have been hiding and create a hundred different times of havoc. This is not just a Rule: it is the Law; it is unchanging; it happens to every writer at every launch. It cannot be altered.  Now, I have a book launch for A Sink of Atrocity coming up. I tried to keep it quiet, but my publishers, bless their innocent little hearts, whispered it to the world, the gremlins heard the news and pricked up their sharp little ears

They swarmed over in their chattering millions, crawled under the door, slithered down the chimney, swam through the pipes and came through the taps, hitch hiked on the cat’s tail or hid inside the shopping. One way or a hundred ways they infested our house and began to cause chaos. They froze the computer; they put snow drifts across our driveway the very morning I was due to drive the near two hundred miles to see the publisher; they hid my reference books and ensured my illustrations were unsuitable.

Now that last was a really mean trick. I had thought my illustrations were perfect; I had hunted them out specifically for the book and matched them page by page. They were black and white original illustrations contemporary with the period and I was very proud of them. Unfortunately the picture gremlins got there first. They got there before me in fact, for the photographs were low resolution and the book required high resolution.

But for every evil gremlin there is a guardian angel and mine arrived in the shape of the curators at Dundee Museum.  Dundee in Scotland must be one of the friendliest places in the world, and these two ladies, Rhona Rodger and Ruth Neave, worked like Trojans to find suitable illustrations. Thanks to them, the book was completed and the picture gremlins gibbered in frustration at their failure.

But then, as I sighed in relief and hoped to wave an un-fond farewell to the gremlins, they struck again. They struck subtly and with intent. As Churchill thrust at the ‘soft underbelly’ of Europe in 1943 after four years of stubborn war, the gremlins struck at the soft underbelly here. It was not a full frontal attack but a sneaky, clever and ultimately effective strategy.  They called in a host of tiny reinforcements and gave my wife influenza.

Oh the nastiness of it.  It was a clever move by the gremlins, for with the wife being struck, it is inevitable that I will be next. But when and how is the question. Will it hold out until after Thursday when A Sink of Atrocity is launched? Or will it hit me so I lose my voice and have the same shiverings and light headedness that has made my wife suffer so badly these last ten days?

Who will win: the gremlins or the writer?  All will be revealed on Thursday night.

The moral of this blog?  If you are approaching your launch and things appear to be going wrong, then keep the chin up. It is not you going wrong, it is the launch gremlins. Now here is a thought:  gremlins want to destroy what is good, so the more that arrive for your launch, the more important they must think it is.  To follow that train, the more gremlins arrive for your launch or even for your life;  then the more important they must think it is.

6 Simple Steps

The wife of one of my best friend’s wants to write a book.  She’s just in that stage where it’s in her head and she hasn’t started it yet.  So to help her, he found a chart that’s kind of a joke using Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Star Wars with all of the required elements to write an epic novel.  Even though it’s funny and kind of makes fun of us writers, it’s actually kind of true so I’m going to share them with you just in case you haven’t seen it.  So, here we go.

1. Select a young male protagonist.

2. Remove parents and have him live with an aunt or uncle.

3. Introduce an old wise, bearded mentor.

4. introduce some supernatural help.

5. Add a super evil villain who wants to take over the world.

6. And a character striving for redemption, like Golem, Prof. Snape or Darth Vadar (after he takes the helmet off  lol).

And that’s it.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?  I guess basically it is but there’s nothing in there about plot or character development.  Or coming up with that enticing first line and catchy first paragraph/chapter.  Or finding the time to write it all down.  Or how to write a synopsis or query.  I think queries were the bane of my writing existence until my agent Terrie saved me from writing them. lol

What do you think?  Is this good advice for a starting writer?  I don’t know what I’d have done if someone presented me with that before I started writing.  Probably the same thing I’m doing with it now, laugh, dismiss it and keep writing my way.  lol

To Be Normal or Not To Be

All right my gothlings.  I’m going to share a secret with you.  There comes a time in your life when you have to decide if you’re going to be normal or not.  And I don’t mean how you think, just how you look.  I’ve been informed that I do not fit the “normal” for how a wife and mother of my age should look.  For the most part, I’ve given up my super gothy ways, except on Halloween when it’s acceptable to look how you feel. 🙂  That’s not to say I’ve sold out because I haven’t.  My hair is still so black it’s purple-y blue.  I still wear my black eyeliner.  I’m still pale but I don’t think that will ever change.  I will never fit in with the other school mothers.  Not gonna happen and I don’t feel that I want it to.  I’m completely comfortable with me, you know for the most part. lol

But the other mothers have those family stick figure stickers of the mom and dad and each kid doing what the parent thinks is their favorite thing and the family pets.  I’ve got three skull, three witch/fairies and a Triple Goddess sign on the back of my minivan. lol  I plead necessity on the minivan.  I’ve got four kids and a husband.  A car or something just isn’t going to fit six of us. lol

So as I go through what I have to to make other people happy, just remember, they can dress you up however they want but they can’t change who you are or what you think you should do.  If you’re an artist, they can put you in a prom dress and you’ll still get paint on it.  If you’re a writer, they can still want you to conform to “normal” writing but that won’t change what you write when everyone is sleeping.  You’re you.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  🙂

Friday the 13th

Gather round my little darklings and gothlings, it’s Friday the 13th!  Lots of people believe that this is an unlucky day.  It ranks right up there with black cats crossing your path and a shiver means someone’s walking over where your grave will be.  For the record, I’ve checked my books on superstitions, of course I have a couple, and a black cat is not bad luck.  That just goes back to the Burning Times when people just assumed a black cat was a witches familiar.  But if you can’t let that go, blow a kiss at it as it crosses your path and that will erase the bad luck.  I prefer the belief that it means you can make a wish, which probably also goes back to witches and familiars carrying the wish back to their witch.  And if you shiver, you’re probably chilly.  Just think about how many cold chills you get in a single winter.  Either you’ve got a lot of graves out there or there’s a bunch of people trodding over your spot. lol

Anyway, back to today.  I don’t believe today is an unlucky day.  I used to when I was young and didn’t know any better.  Now I look forward to it like I do a blue moon (which is not blue by the way but just a second full moon in a month) because there’s supposed to be extra magical.  Or Halloween and we all know that’s the coolest day of the year. 🙂  I think there’s extra potential for unexplained things to happen.  Not necessarily bad things but something.  And a lot of lucky and unlucky is just in how you look at it anyway.  This is from someone who really does have bad luck most of the time.  If something can go wrong for me, it will and I have no fear of Friday the 13th.

So here’s my advice, if you can’t let go of today being an unlucky one, think about it this way.  At least it’s Friday and that’s a good thing, right? 🙂

What To Talk About Today?

Well, I have no idea what to talk about today. lol  I’m full of mundane stuff which no one wants to know about.  We all have that regular crap we have to deal with.  I’m sure a lot of you are like me.  Stirring, wishing you could let yourself hit the snooze even though your mind is already figuring out exactly how much time you have before you have to leave the comfort of your bed and hit the showers, what you’re going to pack in lunches or morning traffic.  Is our crazy spring going to give us a nice day or a cold one that has you totally rethinking what you and/or your kids are going to wear.  Did you fold that last load of laundry in the dryer last night or will it be the wrinkle release.  I, personally, think my wrinkle release button will wear out before my dryer does. lol

But I guess the big point, at least for me for today, is to muddle through the stuff I have to do to get to the stuff I want to do.  My characters are crawling through my head, making choices that I don’t seem to be a real part of because I’ve been too busy to put any of it down.  So when I do get to the good part of the day, I’ll have to reign them all in so I’m in control again and the story doesn’t fly off the tracks on me.

Do any of you have that problem?  Or the one that once you get going on a new book, a bunch of ideas for others start popping up and demanding your attention?  I have a fear that I’ll run out of things to say, so I’ll comply with a few of the better ideas and get that first paragraph or page down so I don’t lose it somewhere in the wasteland of my head. lol  It’s not just me is it?  lol

I Know I Slipped a Little

Once again, my lovely gothlings, I slipped again with the posting but nearly as bad as last time. 🙂  Plus I have excuses.  We’ll just put them under another of my misadventures.  Gotta stop having those.  I am supposed to be a grown up after all but that really sucks. lol

Anyway, I’ve always felt a close kinship to Edgar Allen Poe.  His grave is in my city, his historical house that he shared with his wife/cousin Virginia, I took a who is your famous dead soul mate quiz once and it was him and I did this thing where you enter something you’ve written and the program tells you who you most write like.  Once again, my beloved Edgar.  When I was young and my friends were reading Judy Blume, I was reading Edgar.  I feel we can be on a first name basis now.  We’ve had, or I have had in my head lol, a 20+ year relationship with him. 🙂  But now that The Raven is coming out with one of my favorite actors, the beautiful John Cusack as Edgar and it’s being released on my birthday, it just feels like one more coincidence.  All of this, along with my natural need and desire to write, along with my belief that it’s what I’m supposed to do since it’s all I ever wanted to do :), makes me believe that I’m on the right track.

Yes, I’m kind of crazy and a bunch morbid and probably equally as weird, but some people seem to like that.  Now I know my split apart twin (lol) will say her writing and artistic hero is Edward Gorey, another post-mortem legend.  But who inspires you, my gothlings?  What did you read that spoke to you and said, “You’ve got to do something like this.  You have GOT to write.”  I’m really interested, as always, with what you have to say and the opinions you share.  Because we darklins must stick together. 🙂

Pretty Cool Start to the Day

Oh, my darklings and gothlings, despite the fact that it looks like it’s going to be unabatedly sunny, the day has had a pretty cool start.  I’ve got some nice hot coffee and the original Phantasm is on the Fear Channel.  I don’t suppose that I’ve mentioned that I love horror movies? lol  And horror book, ghost stories and just about anything else that will make me not want to go into my already creepy basement. lol  A friend of mine and I were talking about all the scary stuff that used to happen to us.  She draws it to herself and I draw it to me, together we were like a super magnet sometimes.

So anyway, I’m still prepping for Easter and trying to get some writing done.  Any writing on Easter day will be totally out.  My family doesn’t like it when I write.  They don’t really want to know about it so I need to write while the writing’s good. lol

I think I need a laptop so I can write in front of the television while horror movies are on.  I don’t know what happened.  Phantasm was on, I can out here to write this and now all of a sudden the Pound Puppies cartoon is on.  Now that’s just an injustice.  🙂