Saturday, December 28, 2013

Writing's Gifts

Since beginning writing, I've learned so much. It took me a long time to write my first book. First, I had to refresh my grammar skills, and then learn how to tell a story — very difficult! After all the grammar I learned in public schools, I thought I knew it. Ha! I was fooling myself. However, everyone believes if you practice anything consistently you expect to become better with experience, and I know I did. Pacing, use of show or tell, character development, world building, and judging the best method to use for a particular story are tools I continue to develop. I cringe at the mistakes in my early stories, but writing has become easier and faster. Happily, it is an on-going process, but along with my grammar, my word usage is better, and I recognize my mistakes.

Writing forces the mind to work at both critical and creative thinking. The problem is the mind works so much faster than fingers type, and ideas often strike when in locations that leaves the writer unprepared to jot them down. I've so many notes scribbled on random sheets of paper that it often becomes confusing. The critical thinking comes into play again when appraising and analyzing writing. It teaches the writer to know what to keep and what to cut. Another problem in developing writing skills is getting the imagination and mind to stop working or at least slow down.

While not a best-selling author, writing has served me well in other ways, especially in knowing that I've touched some readers. Receiving an email from a pleased reader is a treasure. In addition, I think I am more logical, more organized, and methodical, and publication has led to several other jobs.
The New Year always makes me more reflective, which it is supposed to do. I'm glad I drove myself to write, and will continue to do so. Using current problems and issues and letting them play out in a future or fantasy world defies emotional description. I've plans for many more scifi and fantasy stories, and I'm finally reaching the end of a historical novel. My future looks filled with stories.

For more about what other authors have learned from writing, go to Diane Bator 's blog.
Please visit all the authors participating in this round-robin:

Ginger Simpson  
A.J. Maguire 
Connie Vines
Beverly Bateman
Marci Baun 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the Shopping Frenzy

When did Thanksgiving stop being about family, friends, and togetherness and become a dinner's done, thank the lord, now I can shop day? Was I snoozing over a very full stomach that I missed the transition? (Yes, I know it supposedly started as a peace gesture between current land owners and immigrants which went murderously awry.) Who developed the racing through the store's doors, running shopping carts down aisles like NASCAR drivers, and tearing through product displays combat game where arguing, fighting, and giving the worst attitude wins more points? (Sort'a like we did to Native Americans after the first feast, isn't it?) Was this change made to please those dear family members you rushed from the Thanksgiving table so you could buy the best present possible at the cheapest discount? Maybe we as a people need to rethink 'best' present, and the meaning of  'thankful.'

And don't tell me about Black Friday being the day retailers finally reach black in their accounting books, and we been doing it for decades. I know. Is the 'black' for the store's bottom line, or for shareholder earnings and the CEO’s bonus? Big difference. I've worked a lot of retail, and I don't buy it. It's hype. It's another sale. It's about getting shoppers in the store and dollars into the registers. I know many retail stores fail; it's a tough business, but to not break even until the end of November? No way, no how. Is it greed or desperation causing the big retailers to encourage Christmas shoppers into their stores not only before Halloween but also to open on Thanksgiving Day?

Okay, so if you don't like the trend, then don't participate; maybe it will fade away. However, all of you convenience store, gas station, and mini-market owners--please stay open on Thanksgiving Day! Either I or a family member is always on the road and we always seem to have to pick up some forgotten item like whipped cream! You’re laughing and accusing me of hypocrisy. I admit it. While so many people are on the roads traveling, it is important to have certain retail services available, but to turn Thanksgiving into a retail thanks for shopping quest somehow seems wrong. The gas station we stopped at Thursday said they were swapped. Good, at least it was worth the effort.

Yes, Thanksgiving has changed over time. No matter how it supposedly started with the Pilgrims and the Indians, or when Lincoln created the National holiday in 1863 during a terrible and bloody war, it has evolved into a day of shared traditions. One day a year to remember what you and I are most thankful for seems needed, which is hopefully not just possessions; plus, whether religion is involved or not, it is often for some families the one meal a year shared over the same table. Can we have it without a side of commercialism?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Day Kennedy Died


Ever U.S. citizen alive at the time probably remembers where they were when they heard the news that President Kennedy was dead, assassinated. Sometimes whole populations can share a common emotion, although this one wasn’t necessarily grief, but more like disbelief. I’m sure not everyone grieved, even throughout the days of public mourning; after all Kennedy was a very political man and had those in Washington DC and around the country who disagreed with his policies. Still, like on 9/11, the television played constant images, with an continuous stream of speakers in endless dialogue. I wasn’t at home to see Walter Cronkite’s announcement, but at school. I’d see that clip played again later.
 
I was in Mrs. Goodrich’s ninth-grade English class. Although I can’t remember the lesson, I remember Mrs. Goodrich sitting at a student’s desk at the front of the room, the desk turned so she faced the Class. Principle Walker’s voice came from the intercom interrupting the class. He announced that Kennedy had been shot. Mrs. Goodrich said nothing, and looking back, seems to me now to have look stunned, probably much like her class looking back at her, appeared. A few minutes later the national anthem played through the speaker, after which Mr. Walker said the President had died and school was dismissed. Gloria, one of the Catholic girls in our class, shrieked and folded forward over her desk crying desolately over the loss of our first Catholic President. No one moved to console her.

Everyone quietly picked up their books and left the classroom. I emphasize quiet. That is my overwhelming memory. Even in the school’s corridors, passageways usually so noisy with talk, laughter, shouting, running steps, banging lockers, and ebullient emotion, were eerily quiet. No one talked, not even the upper class men. I saw seniors with their faces uncertain or worried-looking, filled with disbelief. Sounds like the shush and clomp of sliding footsteps, general movement, and the soft metal against metal of locker doors carefully opened and closed must have been present, but I didn’t hear them. It was a very strange moment. I knew how government worked, but was not familiar or interested in the actual events. Grownups took care of all of that.

I walked home where the television already played, my Mom watching. I saw the photos of  Vice-President Johnson taking the oath of office, and the funeral procession on the 25th, including John-John’s salute to his father. What is strange is I can’t remember if I had school the following week or not. 

Time passed so slowly and yet so fast. I remember my grandmother telling me that when President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, her family didn’t learn of the event until a month later. She would have been ten at the time. Times had certainly changed. Like this year, Thanksgiving was on the 28th and went on much as our usual family event. Life went on. The world must have changed, but what I think I learned was no one person, however important, was the lynchpin to the future.

This month's round-robin is a short list, but I'm sure you will enjoy Beverly Bateman's post on  Blogging With Beverly as well as Diane Bator's post on Pens, Paints and Paper. Please visit and leave a comment.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Haunted?

#RndRobn1013
Although I love to read paranormal, scifi, and fantasy, I can’t say that I believe in ghosts, hauntings, fairies, angels, demons, trolls (the last three excepting living human varieties), ESP, or various mythical creatures including unicorns and big foot. I do believe in flexible minds able to imagine such, but happily most brains return to reality at the conclusion of a tall tale. A long time ago my sister said she saw our deceased Scottish uncle walking across a northern lake playing bagpipes. I don’t’ think he ever played pipes or had ever been at that particular place. However, I also don’t judge her comments because I don’t know the circumstances under which it happened, which I do believe has great bearing on such occurrences.

A recent article by David Moye gave eight good reasons to believe your house is haunted. Now, I helped build my house thirteen years ago, and one person has died in this house, but I don’t believe my home is haunted.

Indicator number one for ghostly inhabitants is unexplained noises. Usually I just go investigate such sounds, usually caused by wind or animal, and I haven’t found an unexplainable noise yet. 

Indicator two includes moving items. With my memory and penchant for putting something down while my mind shifts gears to a new question or quest – well, yes, things go missing. I eventually find them. Now, I must mention I think my house has a floating black hole. Desired items I’m looking for slip into this hole only to reappear long after they were needed in exchange for some much desired right now item. This, however, might well be explained by new theories in quantum physics.

BB climbing up the door.
The appearance of bizarre shadows show the haunting third indicator at work. Have I ever mentioned I have eight cats? Of course I see bizarre shadows and reflections. That’s how cats operate. This phenomenon also answers indicators four and five. Four mentions the strange behavior of pets. Answered with a question: do cats ever act normal? And five, the feeling of being watched: Eight pairs of staring eyes from creatures known for their intimidating glares covers that; I have no time for any other stare.

Terrifying dreams comes under indicator six. I’ve covered this in another post: Alien Wakeup Call.

Indicator seven, the spontaneous turning on of electronic devices is explained by several happenstances: a cat’s innate ability to place a paw on a remote and hit exactly the right button (times 8); the vagaries of rural electric service, and little understood and malfunctioning appliance timers.

Last on the indicators is unexplained writing. Other than most of my writing is unexplained, I haven’t run into this singularity on foggy windows or other places unless a well-known living person left it for me. It has never happened here, so the judgment is out on this one. Maybe someday? Perhaps a genetically modified for human sentience cat will be dropped off some night. I look forward to the event.

May your hauntings be blessed. Please click on over to Ginger Simpson's blog on this topic.

Others participating in the Do You Believe round robin:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Nanite Warrior


The Nanite Warrior launched yesterday on Wing ePress webpage.
It is a sequel to Home World Aginfeld. It's about genetic tampering and super soldiers.
Excerpt:
The recreation dome had ancient trees growing near where she wanted to visit, but too many Agin’ers lingered. Here too, heavy shadows fell. As dinnertime approached, many left. Discovery of her escape loomed, so timing became imperative. She furtively made her way to her selected tree, slung her line across her body and with cautious sensitivity to surveillance equipment, also noted on her many runs, began her ascent. She briefly thought of Enforcer Rosly standing outside the apartment’s door, but put it aside. By the time she reached the top, darkness had fallen, and there were no lights except that reflected from the planet’s moon. She moved from the tree to structural beam, crawling and climbing through and over it to the airlock. The latch was stiff from disuse, but using the blade with which she’d pried out her tag, and with several powerful tugs, it opened. She entered the small airlock, closing the aperture behind her. Setting off an alarm somewhere? Probably.

Two minutes later, the outer aperture opened, and she crawled out onto the apex of Abode Habitat with a sense of exultation. Far to her left, dusk lingered, casting colorful light and shadow on the landscape. The land laid ruggedly sharp, angled and barren, appealingly alien, colder than she expected, and smelling of a harsh mineral scent. A wind blew, not anywhere near gale force, but strong. She knew the atmosphere was breathable, the oxygen content lower than humans preferred, but livable. It had a tangible feel, too, like slithery silk. She brushed her hand and felt a slight gritty feel the wind left.

She stood, observing the environment and savoring her achievement. For the first time in over two hundred years, although they felt like twenty-six, she was totally free of restraint. She laughed and spread her arms wide before the moon while bending backward in an arc in a sense of triumph and achievement.

She looked down. Far below she saw the floor of the habitat where people walked, but no Enforcers gathered. She smiled.

Sections of the fretwork of the habitat glowed with a very soft green phosphorescent glow. Sometime long ago, line anchors showed Agin’ers climbed here. A thin walkway made its way around the dome below her, and an access ladder led down to it, but not in the direction she wanted to go. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dark, showing her everything as if at midday.

She double-checked the anchors, which seemed sturdy in their solidness. My equipment hasn’t been checked in a long time either. This is crazy. I grabbed it for a quick getaway, not for safety. Go or not? She looked around her, remembering nanites renewed the structure in predictable cycles, and  confidently prepared her rappel line for descent. She began a slow trip down and over the rounded top.

The trickiest part was her planned trail over various tubes to the place where she wanted to place her feet on Aginfeld. Little soil existed yet, just sand, gravel, and rock. She kicked off from the side of the dome and swung, floating in a wide arc to her right where she saw her intended tube. Before she could make the next descent, she retrieved her line and placed a cam between the structure’s framing for her line. She slowly lowered herself toward the top of the tube. All would have been fine, except the structure failed and collapsed.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

A First Adventure

#RndRb0913 
This month's round-robin is about firsts. September is a month of first days, so it seem appropriate.

There have been so many 'firsts' in my life: first day of kindergarten (and every other grade in education including college), first date, first kiss, first job, first child's birth, first publication, first auto accident, first hospital stay, and the list goes on, just as it does for everyone. Hopefully we are all growing and changing and entering into new endeavors. All of those firsts, though, teach us about ourselves. I've certainly learned several things. First off, first situations compel my expectations and nervous reactions into hyper-drive while lowering my thinking and logic skills and speech capability. Second is my body is not physically adept at most sports (one exception is horseback riding). I'm always a klutzy first-timer who stumbles over her own feet and tongue.

My new boyfriend wanted me to go skiing with him, something I'd never done. Now, I admire good skiers, and my boyfriend was an excellent skier and a experienced ski instructor. No problem; I can do this. Yeah, forgetting about my acrophobia, I agreed. At eighteen, I was in love and desperate to prove it.

First thing, I was so nervous I forgot to say goodbye or thank you to my parents who drove me to Mount Brighton. I'd hear a lot about that later. Boyfriend was taking me back to my dorm room at MSU.

Without more ado, the lesson in how to put on ski boots and skis progressed. Once accoutremented, we approached the rope tow of the bunny hill. Thankfully I have a very strong upper body and managed to hold on to the top, and further. I only let go as the rope changed directions to vertical. It was freezing out. I hate cold. I was afraid of looking a total fool (too late), and terrified of being on two slippery, long, sticks that I seemed to tilt over too far to the right or left, or backward, but upright was difficult. I also carried lethal spears in both hands. I imagined myself sliding out of control down the hill, ski poles waving in wild arcs with small children on a hill. Then I looked down the hill.

To me it was like looking over the crest of Everest, and I had to bend over and hold my knees before I fainted. How had I gotten myself into this? I heard an exasperated sigh and knew this boyfriend was done and gone. However, he patiently told me not to worry about going down and showed me how to slowly slide, stop, and turn. Before I knew it we were at the bottom of the tiny hill.

One important lesson I learned besides the most fundamental of ski lessons (I would go on to higher hills and even moguls) was that even the most dismal of beginnings can lead to lasting endeavors. This one has lasted over forty years. Luckily he has always had ski partners because both children were on skis at eighteens months.

Please go to Victoria Chatham's blog for the next post on this tour.


All those participating in the 'First Time' round-robin:
Marci Baun 
Diane Bator
Beverly Bateman
Kay Sisk
Fiona McGier 
Ginger Simpson 
Lynn Crain
Connie Vine
Victoria Chatham 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Additional 'I Love Fantasy' View

Author David Toft
I love writing fantasy fiction because I love writing. I have tremendous admiration for authors, especially authors of historical fiction, who go through thousands of hours of meticulous research to get everything absolutely right. Me…I just want to write, and fantasy allows me to dive into my imagination unrestrained even by the laws of physics.
          Even when I try to lodge my characters firmly in the real world, they inevitably head off into a fantasy one, and who am I to argue? I just tell their stories.

Love Fantasy? Why?


Fantasy. Some readers love it, others can't stand it. I fall into the first category, but, as I've said before, all fiction is fantasy. Yet the genre Fantasy, like scifi and horror, with which it is often grouped, has other-worldly elements. I love fantasy for its fairytale elements, and because it goes wherever the author's imagination takes it, which sometimes can be visionary. Good fantasy, like a good folktale, plays with our imagination.

Author Eric Price
Blog

I read and write as a healthy means to escape reality. This has caused me to avoid non-fiction (too real), and at the same time, it has drawn me toward fantasy. Of all genre fiction, fantasy contrasts the greatest with today's world, and thereby provides a more complete escape.
        Fantasy worlds often draw similarity to our past. Sword fights, knights in shining armor, and vast, sparsely populated landscapes appear in many novels. But usually the stories become even more, well, fantastic.
        Magic and amazing creatures frequently assist or hinder (usually both) our fantasy heroes on their quests.
        I'm not saying I don't enjoy a good horror or mystery, but when I want a real escape, nothing beats a fantasy.

 
Author Suzanne de Montigny
Blog
I love both. And I don't know why really. I think it's because it takes me away from reality.


Author Sherry Antonetti
I've read fantasy since my father first decided we would read aloud Watership Down and The Hobbit one summer. Talk about setting the bar high for all that followed. What I loved was the epic nature of these stories that dealt with important things like friendship and loyalty, courage and leadership, and the comfort that good food and warm light could bring in the darkest points of the journey. In college, I still read comics and took a course called Fantasy and Philosophy where the professor opined that no century needed the journeys available via the imagination moreso than the 21st century, where we seek to distill all the mystery out of our everyday existence via rational, logical and scientific thought. Fantasy fiction allows us to delve into the realm of myth, where truths can be revealed about our interior lives that our waking selves aren't quite ready to accept. We become in the play of the story, the hero or heroine, who saves the day, who rights the wrong, who inspires, who is a light, who recognizes good and evil and takes a stand. When we play at this role of being more than we appear, we begin to grasp the amazing truth that each of us has a singular destiny, and it is for us to recognize and chose to embrace, to be more than we have allowed ourselves, and to begin the amazing adventure that involves the dangerous thing of going out our front door.



Author Pamela Kelt
Blog
My first teen fantasy comes out on MuseItYoung in September. Ice Trekker is about the Grells of Hinderland, who face a bleak future. For the sake of his family, young Midge leaves his cosy home in search of a job and treks north to the mysterious icy wastes of Kr√łnagar.


Author Graeme Brown
Blog

I love to read and write fantasy, not just because of the 'anything is possible' flavour, but I relish the reassertion of good against evil in different guises. And who can resist a worthy quest?

Fantasy creates for me, as reader and writer, a landscape to explore free expression, like a dream bound up in the trappings of reality. Fantasy becomes reality, and with it, the ideas and possibilities that stir my senses when I experience this world expand in ways they'd never be able to. It feels, when I read about imaginary worlds or enter my own to explore it, like I am looking not into something impossible, but something that beckons - a reality that could be, that should be. It is a reason to dream, to imagine, to ponder, and to wonder. It is a place to make that all real, a sandbox where I can draw my fancies, or build castles that hold together long enough to admire.

Why do I write it? Why do I read it? So that I do not forget. There is a world of endless possibility that lurks before us, an infinite landscape that all the years of eternity would just begin to reveal. When we are awake we work, we eat, we toil and groan and complain, and though we dream, we forget when we are assaulted by the next day. But when I enter the fantasy landscape, that is the time to remember; that is the time to balance the dream with the waking world, the time to remember what reality truly is and to dare to make it real, one word at a time.

Authur Ceci Giltenan
Blog

I love the ease with which I can suspend disbelief when reading fantasy. I write historical romance, although I have one fantasy novel started and another mapped out. When a book is "historical," some reviewers, fans and other authors are primed to criticize its historical accuracy. Although I aim for accuracy, the genre is primarily romance and occasionally facts take a back seat. Still I understand historical inaccuracies, no matter how minor, can interfere with a reader's ability to simply enjoy the story. This is completely eliminated in fantasy because the author creates their own reality surrounding the story.

Author Jane Toombs

As a kid I loved E.A. Poe--still do--because of his fantasies in stories and verse. As an adult I even wrote a story about a gal who falls in love with and marries a ghoul (see Ten Past Midnight). And I always felt there really should be dragons, so I write stories about them (see Dragon's Pearl). I think it's because fantasy takes us away from the mundane and opens new possibilities of worlds where such creatures exist. Don't know if I'd like such a world, but it's fun to read and write about.